college rejection

Dealing with Rejection

Valentine’s Day was earlier this month, and for a lot of teenagers, it was a hard lesson in how rejection stinks. Rejection is a gut punch followed by a lingering sadness that sometimes feels like it’ll last forever and a day.

Romantic rejection isn’t the only kind. In a few weeks, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors across the country will receive the ‘thin envelope’ from their top choice college or university. “We regret to inform you that…” That’s about as far as the rejected applicant gets before the letter slips from their hands or they tear it up.

If you’re a high school senior waiting to hear back from your dream college, it’s okay to keep your hopes up in these weeks before April 1st. If you submitted a strong application portfolio, you have a good chance. By all means, fantasize of receiving an admission packet and attending the school of your dreams.

However…

Now is the time to prepare for how you’ll react in case the ‘thin envelope’ should arrive in your physical or digital mailbox. Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll discuss how planning in advance can lessen the blow and get you back on track as soon as possible.

Accept Your Feelings

In the first 24 hours after you receive a college rejection, you may feel angry, sad, frustrated, or numb. It’s normal to feel all of these things at once.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s perfectly okay to feel this way, and there’s no shame in reacting however your mind is programmed to do so. If you want to show a brave face to family or friends, okay. But when you’re by yourself, just let it out. Scream, cry, rage…just don’t hurt yourself or others. 

Don’t Overanalyze It

You’ll never know why a school rejected you. You already know this fact, but if rejection should come, you’ll likely spend days wondering why it happened. Was my ACT score too low? Were my extracurriculars not impressive enough? Was….And the cycle goes around and around.

If you’re a competitive applicant, here’s the simple truth about why you didn’t get into your dream school: there just wasn’t enough room for you. It’s simple math. Too many applicants. Not enough seats.

Never forget that you were worthy. Unfortunately, so were thousands upon thousands of other applicants.

Concentrate on the Acceptances You’ve Received (or Outstanding Applications)

If your dream college should reject you, try focusing on the bigger picture. Have you received acceptances from other colleges or are waiting to receive a decision? If the answer is ‘yes’ to either part of this question, that’s what you should focus on. Either you already have a ‘bird in the hand,’ or there’s still hope. Both are positives.  

Final Thoughts

I still remember the day that my first-choice college (University of Chicago) rejected me. It was a Thursday afternoon, and I discovered the thin envelope in the mailbox. I was sad, my parents were sad for me, and I spent Friday moping around school. On Saturday I was still sad…until I opened the mailbox again and found a fat First Class envelope addressed to me, an acceptance packet from Vanderbilt University. I was ecstatic, and my mom cried with joy.

As I think back on that emotional whirlwind of a weekend, the Vanderbilt acceptance still makes me happy, but the University of Chicago rejection no longer makes me sad.

Don’t fear rejection, dear readers. Sadness fades, and wherever you attend college, I’m sure you’ll do great things. 

What Does It Mean To Be Waitlisted?

“If you are waiting on a waitlist decision, please make sure you accept to at least one school by May first.” These were the wise words given by an admissions director to a group of parents at an admitted students tour I attended last week. “I’d hate to see your student not have a school to go to in the Fall.” He’s worried that students count on getting off the waitlist when the odds are very slim that they will.

Is there a way to rise to the top of the wait list? Some parents say a letter to the admissions director or department head will show fresh demonstrated interest. Some schools might ask students to update their letter of intent. I’ve heard that some students on wait lists have been asked by the college to write additional essays. If your student has not received any of these assignments, don’t panic. Just call the admissions office and they will explain their process.

I called the admissions office to the school my daughter was waitlisted to and waited about six minutes on hold then spoke to an admissions director. He told me the waitlist would open up on May 1 after all the other students had accepted. He said they’d start pulling students off the waitlist based on their major. If the History department had three openings, three history students would get those spots. He also told me we’d find out by May 15. That was a relief to know we wouldn’t have to wait all summer. I understand some schools will hold waitlists as late as July.

Waitlists can give a student hope but the realities of getting off the waitlist are daunting. Sometimes a waitlist reply can be a badge of honor. My husband likes to tell that he was waitlisted at Harvard. Our kids are both impressed and empathetic. How different would his life had been if he’d gone to Harvard? Who knows. But it’s a fun conversation around the dinner table, especially right now. So think of the waitlist as a badge of honor and make sure your student enrolls someplace by May 1.

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