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10 Ways to Recover from College Rejection (That Won’t Make You Roll Your Eyes)

“It’ll be okay.” “It’s not the worst thing that could happen.” “It just wasn’t meant to be.” While family, friends, and relatives usually speak these words with the best intentions, they aren’t always what a pre-collegiette wants to hear, especially after receiving an unwanted rejection letter. No matter the situation, rejection is rough. Who would want to be told “no” after putting in hours of hard work and endless energy? Instead of irrationally getting angry with friends, family, and relatives, there are other, more reasonable ways to recover from college rejection. The college most likely isn’t going to change their decision, so it is important for any savvy pre-collegiette to be able to move on and not fixate on the negative. How might you go about this? Well, there are many ways to effectively recover and you have to find what works the best for you. Here are some suggestions from experienced collegiettes, as well as the Senior Advisor at College Confidential, Dave Berry. 
1. Treat it Like a Break-up
Whether rejection is related to college admissions, a rocky relationship, a job, or an internship, rejection is always rejection. Being incredibly bright, intelligent and savvy women, we have perfected the art of nursing a broken heart and curing the unwanted emotions that accompany plain old rejection. It is completely okay to grieve over the rejection, as long as it only lasts a day or two and includes something delicious like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Oh, and don’t forget to put in some kind of feel-good movie. While chick flicks are always a good fall back, the movie Accepted might just be perfect for any college rejection situation.
Alicia, a freshman at Penn State, shares: “I didn’t get into NYU (my top school) and everyone kept trying to console me, but the truth is, not getting into the school you had your heart set on is like going through a rough break-up with a guy – you might need a mourning period. During that period, there should probably be a lot of Nutella and Netflix. It’s the first step to the healing process. Allow yourself a little sadness, then realize how amazingly lucky you are to have the opportunity to go to the great colleges you got into!” Treating college rejection like a break-up might be just what you need to get over any spiteful, sad, or “down-in-the-dumps” feelings. It is a perfectly healthy way to embrace your sadness short-term, so that you can move on with your life.
2.  Feeling Angry? Work it Out.
Berry has some really important and wise advice about dealing with rejection: “Don’t hate the school that rejected you from this moment on.” Your first instinct might be to forever hate the school that picked someone else over you. Try hard to refrain from bitter comments and don’t assume that everyone who has a connection to the school is evil or out to get you. If you are truly feeling angry, spiteful, and wanting revenge, the healthy thing to do is to hit up the gym. Get in a good sweat session – maybe try a kickboxing class to get rid of any excess anger. Fitting in a workout everyday until you overcome your grieving period might be just what the rejection doctor ordered.
3. Make Lists
We have all heard of the infamous pro/con list and I am sure that many of you were encouraged to create these lists when you were initially deciding where to apply. While pro/con lists are considered tedious, too much work, or even useless by many pre-collegiettes, it is important to realize how effective list-making can be when it comes to making decisions, reducing stress, and boosting your self-esteem. If you need to decide where to go after an unexpected rejection letter, draft a pro/con list. If you want to ease any pains that came with rejection from what you thought was your dream school, make a list! Here are some strategic list-making ideas from collegiettes who faced rejection from their number one schools:
“Another idea that helped me was to make a list of all the reasons my ‘dream school’ wasn’t really the right school for me. It helps ease the rejection and make you realize that maybe it really is for the best. Another way to do this is to make a list of all the reasons the school you are going to will be a great fit.” – Allison, Boston College ’11
“I didn’t get into my number one school, and what really helped me get over it was sitting down and writing out what qualities had drawn me to my #1 in the first place.  Then, I looked at the schools I did get into, and tried to find similarities/parallels between what they offered and what my #1 offered.  When you get down to specifics and start defining the tangible reasons you were drawn to one school, it’s easier to see that those qualities exist at other schools too!  It helps to remind you why you are going to college in the first place and what really matters to you.” – Kali, Ohio State ‘13
4.  Talk to a Friend, Family Member, or Guidance Counselor
We have been told throughout our lives how important it is to talk things out and not to keep all of our emotions bottled up inside. Suppressing emotions will most likely lead to more severe emotions and an eventual emotional breakdown. Clearly, we want to do everything humanly possible to avoid this, so find someone you can trust to talk to about your rejection experience. Talk through your feelings with a friend who is going through a similar situation or talk it through with your mom or your dad. A guidance counselor might also be helpful as they can help you analyze your other choices and focus on other future options.

5. Attend Accepted Students’ Day at a School that DID Accept You
Okay, so you didn’t get in to your favorite school. While it might seem like the world is going to end, it won’t. Life goes on and so must your college plans. Try to psych yourself up for a school that did accept you. A college specifically decided that they wanted you to be part of their incoming freshman class, so give that school a chance. The best way to feel out the school while at the same time generating some excitement is to attend accepted student’s day. Ally, a junior at Northeastern University, shares, “I’d say the best way to get excited about a school you’re going to attend – whether it was your first choice or not – is to attend accepted student welcome days. It’s a great way to see the campus, get information about the academics and extracurriculars at the school and meet potential future classmates. It’ll also make you feel better once you get to know people having those new friends to look forward to in the fall.”

6.  Volunteer for a Good Cause
Studies have shown that people who volunteer are happier and healthier. A study by Doug Oman and Carl Thoreson went so far as to assert that volunteering could help provide cognitive support for coping with any situation. Volunteering won’t reverse the admission’s decision, but it should help you to clear your head, evaluate the situation rationally, and put things in perspective, all while helping out in your community. I personally did not get into my number one school and was forced to make a stressful decision between two other universities. I spent a few days volunteering and it completely cleared my head and helped me to look at the bigger picture.
7. Retail Therapy. . . Duh!
While this may not be the most wallet-friendly, it will definitely help you cope, especially if you were born to shop. Retail therapy could consist of a local trip to the mall or a visit downtown, but the most useful kind of retail therapy for dealing with college rejection is . . . college bookstores! Now, obviously you aren’t going to want to buy anything from the school that rejected you, but how about buying gear from the school you will be attending in the fall? College bookstores have great logo wear – everything from sweatshirts to snuggies! As Allison, Boston College ’11, shares, “It might sound silly, but retail therapy helped me.  I bought a sweatshirt from the school I would be attending.  It definitely helped me to get excited for where I would be going.”
8.  Write a Rejection Letter to the School
Yes, this might sound silly, but Kimberly Stodghill, an associate director of college counseling at Berkeley Preparatory School, explains, “Write a rejection letter to the college. Don’t send it, but simply telling the school why you are rejecting it can be cathartic.” Getting over rejection is a process and while you may not want to sit down and write a letter to a school that rejected you, it will make the post-rejection, grieving period less difficult and hopefully less life consuming. Get all of your emotions written down on paper and then move on! As Berry explains, “It’s perfectly natural to feel bad, but don’t dwell on it.” Writing a simple letter might just be what you need to avoid dwelling on the situation.
9.  Focus on the Possibilities!
Try to distract yourself from any unfortunate instances of rejection by focusing on the amazing summer that is ahead of you and the optimistic future that you have in store. You have three entire months to do whatever you want to do. Focus on the endless possibilities that lie ahead, the many opportunities just waiting to be taken, and all of the options you still have when it comes to choosing a major, minor, study abroad program, and even choosing your roommate. In the moment of rejection, your head might be making you feel like you have no control, but it is key to realize that you are always in control of your own life, so do what makes you happy!
10.  Contact a Current Student at a School You WILL Be Attending
Not only will talking with a current student give you some new information from a student’s perspective about the school you will be attending, but it should also get you super excited for the next four years that lie ahead. If you don’t know anyone who attends the school you chose, contact the admissions office. They are always willing to connect incoming freshmen with upper classmen. College is all about meeting new people, making connections, and networking, so why not start now?
Dealing with rejection in any aspect of life is hard. For many pre-collegiettes, this might be the first time you are dealing with this level of rejection and it can definitely be scary. It is important to remember that for every letter of rejection, there is going to be at least one letter of acceptance from a school that genuinely wants you! As Berry wisely advises, “Embrace those schools that have embraced you. Select the one that best suits your needs and prepare to have a great higher-education experience.” The world isn’t going to end because of one rejection letter. In fact, life goes on and while phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” probably won’t make you feel any better right now, they will ring true come fall when you step foot at your new, collegiate, home. 

Kelsey Damassa is in her senior year at Boston College, majoring in Communications and English. She is a native of Connecticut and frequents New York City like it is her job. On campus, she is the Campus Correspondent for the Boston College branch of Her Campus. She also teaches group fitness classes at the campus gym (both Spinning and Pump It Up!) and is an avid runner. She has run five half-marathons as well as the Boston Marathon. In her free time, Kelsey loves to bake (cupcakes anyone?), watch Disney movies, exercise, read any kind of novel with a Starbucks latte in hand, and watch endless episodes of "Friends" or "30 Rock."
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