How to Overcome College Rejection in 4 Easy Steps

Rejection sucks. Whether it’s a guy, friend, or college telling you “no,” it’s bound to sting at least a little bit. College rejections in particular can be especially painful, especially if you’ve just gotten turned down from your dream university or college. While you can’t control a school’s decision, you can control how you handle it in four easy steps.  

Step one: Give yourself time to wallow.

Remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Rory refuses to spend the day wallowing after her first break-up with Dean, but breaks down anyways at a point? The same will happen if you refuse to acknowledge or accept the reality of the admissions office’s decision.

“Give yourself a day or two to mourn, then be ready to move on,” advises Susan Sykes, owner of SS Advising, a private college counseling service. Spend a day or two trying to move on or focusing on other things, while still allowing yourself to feel a little sad or regretful about the decision. If you’re having a hard time getting over a particular rejection, think about talking it over with a close friend or parent, writing or blogging about it, or trying one of these other ways to deal.

It’s a bit clichéd, but always remember that an admissions decision shouldn’t be taken personally. Whoever reviewed your application only got to know a little sliver of who you actually are, so their thoughts on whether or not you’re a good fit for their school aren’t a direct personal reflection of your talents and abilities. “It’s as much about what the college needs as well as what the student wants,” says Sykes. “Always bear in mind that this process isn’t directly about you.”

Step two: Decide how you’ll respond to people who ask about acceptances.

It’s totally up to you how much you want to share about your college admissions experience so far with anyone who asks, whether it’s a friend, relative, teacher, or anyone else who might ask where you’ve heard back from and whether or not you’ve been accepted.

If you want to completely defer the question, simply make a graceful exit by saying you need to get to your next class if you’re at school, need a food or drink refill at a holiday gathering, or another convenient excuse. If you’re super worried about dodging the question, it wouldn’t hurt to have an excuse at the ready before you even walk in the door. Be polite, be gracious, and hopefully no one will push you to respond to something you’re not comfortable discussing just yet.

If someone is relentlessly asking you about a decision, you can always give a quick, “I didn’t get into that school, but I applied at these other places/am applying regular decision/am looking for other options. Shifting the conversation towards the next steps you’re taking will hopefully steer the conversation in a direction you’re more comfortable with.

You can also answer by focusing on your successes. Talk about where you’ve gotten in already, and some of the merits at those particular universities, if you've already gotten into other schools. If you haven’t heard back from any schools yet, you can always share how excited you are to hear back from a few you’ve applied at and talk about that instead.

Another option is to remain vague about your future plans. If you’re not comfortable talking about a certain school’s decision, you can always shift the conversation and focus on how you’re excited to study a particular subject, join a certain club or activity, or something else related to college in general instead of a specific college or university. This might even prove to be a more exciting conversation.

Finally, you can always talk about your senior year or what you’re currently up to if you absolutely don’t want to talk about college at all. Mention how you’re enjoying senior classes, what’s going on with different clubs or teams you’re a part of, or ask the other person what’s happening in their life. It never hurts to focus on the “now” instead of worrying about the future!