How to Handle a College Rejection

The crushing disappointment won’t last forever.

Have you had the unfortunate experience of recently opening an application portal to see a letter beginning with anything other than “Congratulations” or “I am delighted to inform you?”

The college application process is incredibly arduous and unfair and it really, really sucks to get rejected. It can feel so personal because your application essentially describes what your life consisted of for years – and it can feel like they read all about you and got to know you as a person and said “thank you, next.”

Hopefully the following will help you feel better. Above all, remember that your value as a human being cannot be defined by any external measure, and no school can guarantee personal happiness.

1. You can do anything with or without a specific school

There is no single school in the world that holds a monopoly over success. Whatever it is you want to achieve, whoever it is you want to become, it is in your power to fulfill that vision. A school might help you, but there are so many different paths to success.

2. Remember: It’s Just a School

What’s a school? A place with a couple of buildings, books, and people. There are so, so many schools. Why in the world would you allow a single school to define you? Don’t give them the power to own your sense of self-perception.

3. Every School Has Its Failures

Much like human beings, every institution has its flaws. Some have toxic stress cultures which induce intense mental health issues. Some don’t offer any programs in your intended area of interest. Some bear traditions of misogyny and other intolerant ideals.

Think about the thousands of graduates of the best schools in the world who have gone on to lead perfectly unremarkable lives. This just proves that a school can’t guarantee success; only you can.

4. Trust the Process

Maybe you’ll have to enroll at an institution you really dislike. Maybe you’ll end up choosing to forego college totally. Either way, you have no idea which people you will meet and the ideas you will encounter which could change your life. Keep an open mind and try to make every single experience useful for you.

5. Remember all the cool people who were rejected from their dream schools

JK Rowling didn’t get into Oxford, Warren Buffett didn’t get into Harvard Business School and Steven Spielberg didn’t get into USC. They ended up okay.

6. Try Again!

Don’t give up hope just yet. You can apply to transfer after your first or second year, or you can start planning for graduate school. Just know, all is not lost – this is only the beginning of what will surely be a stunning, surprising life journey.

Cover photo: Nik Macmillan

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