It’s December of Jack’s senior year. Like most high school seniors, he is excited about the college process and is anxiously anticipating hearing back from his first choice college, to which he applied early decision.
Although it has been only weeks, the wait has felt like an eternity, and now the letter finally arrives.
Racing inside, he tears into the envelope and quickly reads through the cordial introduction. Finally, there it is: “We are unable to offer you a spot in the class of 2014.” The words are like a lead weight slamming into his chest.
Jack might feel like his world is ending as he reads a college rejection.
But getting rejected from a college doesn’t mean your life is over, and you don’t have to have such strong reactions to a college rejection.
Here’s how to deal.
(1.) Be an educated consumer. Learn about many colleges so you know your other options.
(2.) Know yourself. Assess your strengths and weaknesses so you can find more than one college that meet your needs.
(3.) Present yourself honestly and thoroughly in your applications. That way, you can see a rejection as a school simply not being the right fit.
(4.) Don’t assume that a school is right for you because it is right for your friend.
(5.) Put together a realistic list of colleges that contains at least one safety school you would be happy to attend.
(6.) Be happy about every school on your list, not just the most selective ones.
Even if you follow these tips, there is no guarantee you won’t feel disappointed about a decision. No one expects this process to be void of emotion.
But if you find yourself overreacting or having trouble moving past it, try these tips:
(1.) Allow yourself a set amount of time to go through your grief, and have others allow you to work through your feelings.
(2.) Write a rejection letter to the college. Don’t send it, but telling the school why you are rejecting it can be cathartic.
(3.) Re-evaluate your choices. Look at the positive qualities of the other schools.
(4.) Visit the schools to which you were admitted.
(5.) Accept the fact that you have done everything you were supposed to do to get into college.
(6.) Talk about your feelings with someone you trust.
(7.) Talk to your school counselor about your options and other choices.
You may very well be devastated by a college rejection. But accept the decision. You will find another college that is the right match for you. And when you do, its not settling—it’s making a conscious choice that meets criteria important to you.
Jack eventually calmed down after spending some time talking to his parents and school counselor about all the other positive options he had. He went for a second visit to one of the schools on his list and returned feeling excited about his future. “I will have a single room in a four-person suite, and I can travel to Italy this January with one of my professors,” he says. “I couldn’t have done that at the college where I was denied!”
M. Kimberly Stodghill is associate director of college counseling at Berkeley Preparatory School. Donnamarie Hehn is director of college guidance at Canterbury School of Florida. Jean Rutherford Wall is director of college counseling at Tampa Preparatory School.