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Life > High School

My Dream School Rejected Me — Here’s Why I’m Grateful For It

“We regret to inform you, but we are unable to offer you a spot in our program for Fall 2020.” 

Almost exactly three years ago, the words I had feared most during my entire high school career were chiseled on my laptop screen. No matter how many times I refreshed the page, they were still there. While there were platitudes in the email about “how competitive the program was” and “how I was a talented candidate,” all it felt like was a Howler letter from Harry Potter telling me I wasn’t good enough. 

I did everything to prepare for college admissions: I took AP classes, did extra credit assignments, volunteered, drowned myself in extracurriculars, and sacrificed weekends out with friends for SAT prep. And it still wasn’t enough. I felt like I had given up four years of my life for no reward. “Devastated” doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. 

If you’re unfamiliar with how the admissions process works for performing arts students like me, you have to get into the school not only academically, but also artistically. This means that along with all the essays and test scores, you also have to audition. The rejections I faced, then, weren’t just based on the idea that I wasn’t as strong of a chemistry, calculus, or physics student — which can at least be somewhat grounded in facts and numbers — but instead felt incredibly personal, because art is subjective. At the end of the day, I felt like I was being told that my art wasn’t enough… that I wasn’t enough.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Yep, this girl is a theater kid, because boy, oh boy, is she dramatic.” You are correct, I love a good melodrama — but honestly, this is exactly how I felt. Now that I’m a junior Musical Theatre major at Baldwin Wallace University, nearing the end of my college experience with just a little over a year to go, it would be wrong for me not to reflect on how the concept of dream schools and rejection have all been put into perspective for me. 

College isn’t the most important four years of your life. There, I said it! I know in high school it feels like the end-all, be-all, and getting into college (if that’s the right path for you) is something you should put a lot of thought and care into. However, where you go to school does not define you. You are the same person whether you go to an Ivy, state school, private liberal arts college no one has ever heard of, your local community college, or even if you decide to take a gap year and reapply later on. At the end of the day, how you treat others, how you contribute to society, and what you believe in and stand up for are the things that define you as a human being and mold your legacy. 

When you achieve this acceptance, you truly feel free. Trust me, I know that is easier said than done. I felt like I had put my life on pause, but I was so wrong. While my journey to college didn’t end the way I thought it would, so many other serendipitous things came to fruition. I received a half-ride scholarship because I pushed myself to get the best scores I possibly could. I have the skills to write for publications like Her Campus because I found my voice through all the essays I had to write. I have a whole network of friends from college auditions that I still keep in touch with, and I’m able to explore so many different cities with them on breaks and long weekends. The thick skin that I built up from college rejections has allowed me to be relentless in my professional endeavors, and I am grateful I have had the opportunity to perform in amazing venues — like Carnegie Hall and The Kings Theatre — all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  

Everything happens for a reason. I know, I know — I used to roll my eyes when my parents told me this too, but now that I’m on the other side of my college rejections (I like to call them redirections now), I live my life confident that what is meant for me won’t pass me by. If I had gotten into my dream school, I wouldn’t have met my voice teacher, who has been a key ingredient behind my success in the performing arts field. I wouldn’t have my best friends, who have taught me what true friendship looks like. I wouldn’t have learned the importance of perseverance and determination, and I for sure would not be nearly as good as creating my own opportunities. 

Not getting into your dream school sucks, and grieving is an important part of the process, so don’t think for even a second there wasn’t a week where I wasn’t sobbing my eyes out as if I had just watched The Notebook for the first time. But at some point, you have to move on, scroll by the college acceptance videos on TikTok, and stop feeling sorry for yourself. Because while you’re wallowing, there are opportunities passing you by. 

I hope my little story helped you not feel alone, or like you’re a failure. Rejection means you put yourself out there, and I am so damn proud of you for that. You got this! Just remember, a less prestigious school does not mean a less successful future — that was written into your destiny, dream school or not. 

Bryanna is a Her Campus National Writer, she composes articles for the wellness section weekly covering all things health, and sex & relationships. She also occasionally dips her toes into the culture section for more timely breaking news as needed. Bryanna is a current senior at Baldwin Wallace University where she is majoring in music theatre, but much like the famous line from Hamilton "why do you write like you're running out of time" Bryanna's life would be incomplete without working on articles for Her Campus and various other online publications. She is currently working on her debut poetry book "Love Letters I Never Delivered". When not writing or on stage you can find Bryanna making a perfectly curated Spotify playlist, teeing off at the local mini golf course, or curling up with a totally predictable romance novel. To Keep up with her: @bryannacuthill or https://bryannacuthill.com 💌 🪩🥂