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Getting Rejected From My Dream College was the Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Boston chapter.

It was February 2, 2022. The social media app I downloaded that connected prospective college freshmen to share their college acceptances and find roommates blew up; I immediately knew what it meant.  

“The decisions are out!” Many students typed excitedly in chat.

Along with others, I typed good luck messages and reaffirmed that no matter our decisions, we should be proud that we made it this far.

With high hopes, I opened my laptop and logged into the portal. Just before I opened the decision letter, I propped my phone up to capture my reaction. 

This will be a fond memory to look back on in the future, I thought. Maybe I’ll even post it to the Internet and go viral for one of those wholesome, “feel-good college acceptance videos.” I’ve been through so much and have worked so hard to get to his place, I cant wait for this to be finally over and see those words, “You’ve been accepted.”

With nervous but excited anticipation and my camera rolling, my sweaty, shaky fingers clicked to open the decision letter. 

There was no congratulatory video at the top of the page, and there was certainly no celebratory digital confetti raining down over the words on the page that would solidify my future. I immediately knew something was not right. 

My eyes quickly devoured the page. I felt like a rock climber who had slipped, desperately grabbing onto any and all rocks in front of them to hold on to. For me, I needed to see something — something to tell me it was not what I thought was happening. Even the words “You’ve been waitlisted” would have calmed my rapidly increasing heartbeat and put my racing mind at ease. But those words would not be found in my letter no matter how hard I looked. Instead, there was the word deferred. Deferred. Unmistakably in bold. Deferred. 

In all honesty, I didn’t completely know what that word meant. But with it coupled with the phrases “This was one of the most competitive years yet” and “Sadly, we cannot grant you admissions,” I quickly figured out exactly what it meant. I didn’t make it. 

I couldn’t even look in the reflection of my phone as I grabbed it to stop recording. 

All the effort I put in my senior year instantly came flooding back to me. I’d taken the SAT twice, studied on my own online and in those big bulky prep books for hours, got involved with so many clubs, sacrificed doing things in order to grind out homework assignments, poured my heart out into my college essay, took multiple AP and high-rigor classes, and even took the ACT at a random high school early one weekend for heaven’s sake. 

This isn’t fair. This isn’t right. I can’t be. 

I re-read the letter over and over again hoping that the words I wanted to see would magically appear on the page. 

This college was my absolute dream college. Not my number one, my dream college; I could only see myself going there. From the moment I started to research colleges, I knew I wanted to go there. I loved their academics, opportunities, campus, extracurriculars, sports, and the whole nine yards. It sounds cheesy, but truly, when I toured the campus, I felt at home. I thought, this is exactly where I want to spend the next four years of my life. No doubt. I remember touring the campus, beautiful autumn leaves falling down and the air nice and crispy, imagining myself there the following year. 

And most of all, I felt like all the hard work and effort I’d put in could finally feel worth it if I made it to this prestigious college. Every time I sat at my dining room table grinding on assignment to assignment, and every hour-long AP test would be so worth it if I could get into this college. It would be even sweeter when I got to tell everyone: Yeah, I made it into *insert college here.* The admiration and congrats from my family, teachers, and peers would be so worth it then, and only then. I felt like I had to prove myself and make everything worth it by getting into this big-name college. I justified every sacrifice by telling myself it would all pay off when I got in. Of course, I loved the college, but it also felt like a way of proving myself, and most importantly, my worth, to earn my way in. 

So when I got that rejection letter, it felt like everything I had ever worked on was for nothing. My entire self-worth was crushed the second I was not met with digital confetti. Every sacrifice was for nothing. Every sleepless night was rendered useless. Every minute of preparation for this moment was stamped null and void. 

I cried. Hard. I remember my dad trying his best to comfort me and my mom telling me on the phone it was okay. But it was not okay. It truly felt like my world was over. That there was no point to everything and everyone anymore.

I’d have to go to school tomorrow and tell all my other classmates who had also gotten their letters what had happened to mine. I’d have to tell my guidance counselor that my Early Decision school had rejected me. And worst of all, that following fall, I would not be at the campus of my “dreams.”

In all honesty, it took probably a whole week to talk me off that mental ledge. While I can look back, almost two years later, and kind of laugh at myself, the feelings I felt that day were real. And sadly, this is something so many current college students have felt and so many high school seniors will feel. 

Only weeks and many even months later did I realize that my rejection was a blessing in disguise. My rejection made me realize I was in it for all the wrong things; I was choosing a college mainly for the superficial things I could get out of it, like approval from those around me. I wanted validation. I had this weird feeling that I needed to prove myself to others. And that all of the work I’d put in academically had to culminate in something great. As an AP student, as someone in the top percentage of my class, and as someone with a 4.5 GPA, I thought I had to get into a top college to make everything worth it and live up to everyone’s expectations. I couldn’t just go to some college that virtually everyone goes to; I worked harder than that. I was also fixated on this dream. I had told myself this was the only college I wanted to go to, which closed my mind to any college, but that was because I’d already put it in my mind that I’d be there next fall. But that isn’t an attitude that will get you through life and certainly is not how you should be selecting a college. 

The mere feat of getting through the college admissions process and getting into any school is a feat in itself. College is not the culmination of all your hard work but another step in the pursuit of your future. College is where you’ll grow and learn in a whole new way, and you want to go somewhere that truly seems like the best environment where you can thrive, not the place that looks the best on paper. Smaller schools, public schools, etc., can be just as good as top-tier schools. Whatever you need to thrive, and the place you’ll eventually call home, can be found in a non-top-tier school and you’ll never know if your judgment is clouded by prestige or the future you already set for yourself. You need to look past the numbers and look into a school that holds your values and has opportunities that align with your interests, among other things. You need to be honest with yourself about what you truly want and need from a higher education institution.

Plus, money is something important to consider. Do you really want to be in debt for years and years for a school when you could go somewhere for less or free that probably has equal or maybe even better academics and opportunities? 

If that college never rejected me, I would not be writing this article. I would have never made it to UMass Boston, fallen in love with this campus, met one of my best friends, connected with so many amazing professors and advisors, got the opportunity to pursue a very niche minor that is precisely in my interest field, or a million other things I have and will get to accomplish. While I genuinely never would have thought I would end up at UMass Boston at the beginning of my college admission cycle, I am so glad this is where I ended up. UMass Boston, in many ways, has become my dream school. 

I would have never realized I was so wrong in what I wanted and my perception of the world around me. It handed me a new perspective on life that I move forward with every day. I have learned to be honest with myself, not get wrapped up in how others view me and work hard at my dreams no matter the roadblocks in my way. I have learned that everything will pass, eventually, and the pain you feel, no matter how strong, will not last. I am not defined by my dream school’s rejection, a bad grade on an assignment, or anything external. I define myself by my willingness to be introspective and the times when I have fought through the mental and literal battles all around me. I am so much more than the words “you are deferred” written on those some time ago, and you are, too. I am so grateful for those words, actually.

My rejection gave me the wake-up call to look critically at where I was in life and reassess who I was as the next chapter of my life began. 

To close, and as decision days are fast approaching, I want any and all high school seniors and even college freshmen still toying with where they ended up reading this to know it is okay. You are valid in your feelings; it is okay to be upset. The college application process can be brutal. But please know it will not matter as much in one or two years as it did in those moments. You’ll be sitting in your freshman gen-ed classes, going out on weekends, and sitting in your dorm room, and everything will be okay. The earth will continue to rotate, and the sun will come out the next day. You may even be like me years after, chuckling at your high school senior self.

Take a breath and appreciate the little things. Have a blast at Friday night football games, dance your heart out at prom, and make memories with your friends in the cafeteria. Where you end up at college is not the end all be all; you are the times you have picked yourself up when you have fallen, not the times you have fallen. 

You are not defined by the rank of the school you go to. You are not defined by your acceptances and rejections. What defines you is your character inside, and no college, no matter the rank, can ever take that away from you. 

Whatever college you end up in, no matter what it is, is a new opportunity to shape your destiny. Take advantage of it and appreciate how far you’ve come.

Rejection is only redirection.

Kaleigh Lizotte

U Mass Boston '26

Kaleigh Lizotte is a chapter member at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Her Campus chapter. She is currently a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Boston, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Wealth, Poverty, and Opportunity. Beyond Her Campus, Kaleigh works as a Resident Assistant for the university, where she enjoys making a positive impact on the dorm residents through everyday interactions and floor events. She has interned at the Student Clinic for Immigrant Justice as an Immigrant Advocate, worked at her local YMCA summer camp as a camp counselor the past two summers, and is currently a student activist and president for the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Amnesty International chapter. Kaleigh hopes to put her community activist experience, legal knowledge, and passion to help others to practice one day as a defense attorney (public defender or similar field). In her free time, Kaleigh enjoys reading, listening to music and podcasts, thrifting, going on outdoor walks, and volunteering in her community. If not studying, she probably can be found obsessing over her new fixation of the month with her expertly curated Spotify playlist blasting in her ears.