How to Rise Up from a College Rejection Like a Queen

As your first senior semester comes to a close, your first round of college decisions has started rolling in. While some of you may have received letters that feel like early Christmas presents, some of you may have gotten your first college rejection letter, a milestone you were hoping you’d never reach. The fact is, no matter how studious you are in high school, seldom do you get accepted into every single school you’ve applied to.

But when the college of your dreams, the one you’ve already set your whole heart on, turns you down, how do pick yourself up after that? Ladies, we’ve all been there. College rejections are not the end of the world; you can not only get past them but rise above them and show that school exactly what they’re missing out on. 

You have total permission to feel sad

Rejection will come in a lot of different forms throughout your life, and it’ll never be painless. You’ve worked so hard your whole life to get into the college of your dreams and when you’re told “no,” it can feel like all those efforts were for nothing. Do we expect you to just shake it off and move on right away? No, you’re human after all. If you need a shoulder to cry on, reach out to your friends and family. Remember to physically, mentally and emotionally take care of yourself as you go through this turbulent time in your life. You may feel alone, but thousands of students across the country are in the same boat as you.

Ask why, but then accept and own the rejection

The biggest frustration with rejection is not knowing why you supposedly weren’t “good enough.” First of all, never believe you’re just not “good enough.” A college rejecting you doesn’t mean you’re mediocre. There are all kinds of variables that go into every acceptance and rejection decision. Sometimes it can come down to something as minuscule as the mood of the admissions officer who reviewed your application that day. If they were having a bad day when they looked at your application, they could’ve been harsher on you without realizing it. Real people are making these decisions and you’re smart enough to know that every decision a person makes comes with a degree of subjectivity. On the other hand, there could’ve just been a few things about your application that didn’t quite fit in with the school/program’s standards.   

“You [could’ve] gotten rejected because whatever type of person that college wants to grow, the culture they have there is just not you, in their opinion,” says Morgan Mullings, a sophomore at St. John’s University. There are many occasions where your credentials aren’t seen as poor, but maybe just too different from the school’s expectations. Or if you applied for a school/program that has very specific requirements that you might not exactly meet, then there’s (unfortunately) some reasonable explanation as to why you were rejected.

Still, even the most talented students get rejected from the best colleges. Ultimately, you can’t weigh your worth from an admissions officer’s rejection of you. You’ve made it through almost four whole years of high school and if you’ve challenged yourself, worked tirelessly and are on track to graduate with flying colors then there’s no way you’re not good enough.

You can try to understand where you were lacking and work to better yourself in the future. If there are some cool perks about you that may not have interested one school, like your incredible writing skills or your creative graphic design talents, then embrace those qualities because another equally wonderful college will see them, love them and want you at their school.

Related: 5 Ways to Practice Self-Care During Application Season

You don’t have to take no for an answer

One thing to remember is just because your dream college said no this time doesn’t mean they’ll say no next time. Be realistic in your evaluation of why you didn’t get into that college. Were all your grades and test scores up to their average at least? Did you have some outstanding extracurriculars? Would your personal statement be confused with a Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography? Ask yourself these questions. If you really feel like you only missed the mark by a bit and you really want to attend this university, then consider a community college or a gap year.

“Just because you didn't get into where you were hoping to get into, doesn't mean that it is a definite no. If this is your absolute dream school, you could try [two] years of community college near the university you were hoping for and potentially transfer in!” says Lauren MacDonald, a successful senior at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who actually transferred there herself! She’s living proof that this school path can work out splendidly.

On the flip side, the common issue we hear freshmen have with community college is that attending community college can make it seem like they’re settling instead of reaching higher. Other people's opinions on the choices you make for your own life shouldn't sway your decision-making. No matter what school you’re going to, university or community college, you’re only as good as the work and passion you put in. The school you go to doesn’t make you--YOU make you. And you can make that community college experience the most rewarding freshman and sophomore year experience of your life before you head off to your dream school in two years. It’s all up to you.

Plan your next step and get going

Accepting your dream school’s decision was the hard part, but when it comes down to it, this rejection is just a change in the game plan. Now it’s time to take matters back into your own hands and plan your next step. If you accept that your first-choice school isn’t for you, then that option is out of the way. Now you can reevaluate what your needs and wants are.

“I would use a rejection letter as an opportunity to reflect on what it is that I want, what it is that I need, and how I can go about achieving it. What I found helpful was making a list of pros and cons... I took into consideration the cost of tuition, the amount of scholarship money, [etc.],” Shirley adds.

If you’re waiting for other offers, then continue researching those colleges and renumber the best option as your first choice if you get accepted. If you’ve already received some acceptances, then really start to weigh all the academic and financial factors with other things like campus life, housing, weather and location. Sometimes a school you didn’t seriously consider before can offer up the most glorious opportunities.

“I got rejected from every single Ivy League university I applied to, which was honestly really frustrating. After crying for a week or two, I toughened up and eventually accepted a 7-year medical program offer from a local college near me," says Shereen Jeyakumar, a junior at Florida Atlantic University.  "It might not have been an Ivy League school like I had dreamed about, but I eventually realized that I never really knew much about those schools anyway--all I had cared about was the name. Now, I'm thriving here, getting tons of opportunities and really standing out."

A big fish always dominates the small pond, so maybe it’s time to start considering some smaller ponds that you will surely reign over.

Keep aiming high and don’t get discouraged

As you begin to brush off this setback and adjust your crown like the queen you are, be sure to remember this period in your life. Your first rejection from a college is a milestone you need to reach. Big rejections like these can happen just as easily in your love, family and professional life.

“I think it's important to know that you're going to face rejection the rest of your life. No matter who you are, and what you do, and how successful you are, you're going to face rejection,” says Hannah Harshe, a sophomore at the University of Michigan. “What's important is that you learn how to handle it because the people who can't handle it probably won't do as well in life. They will be too scared to take chances.”

Rejection challenges you, it makes you face the reality that you can always be better. It makes you look into yourself and realize “I’m great but I can be greater.” The most incredible people never settle; they always aim high. When you always climb toward the highest, most astounding opportunities the world has to offer, there’s always a chance you’ll fall down. But it’s always worth the risk.

“I recently got rejected from a program I really wanted to be a part of, and I cried harder than I ever have in my life, but after that, my mindset was, ‘Whoa, that was exhilarating. Let's do it again.’ Keep working hard and trying for things that are so cool they might reject you. Step outside your comfort zone. Rejection letters suck, but girl, you're gonna thrive so hard in life,” Hannah says.

Take notes from all these college queens of rejection and learn how to take life’s rejections and make them your b*tch.