When faced with a college rejection letter, it’s important to abide by a couple of rules:
• Do not ask the admissions committee why they rejected you.
• Do not write to the admissions committee: “You’ll pay for this someday!”
• Do not pretend you never got the letter and show up on campus on the first day of school.
• Do not resend your application under a different name the following year.
• Remember that colleges aren’t rejecting you—they’re rejecting a few pieces of paper. So technically, they’re rejecting paper.
There is no way to sugarcoat rejection. But the level of hurt you’re feeling now depends on how badly you wanted to go to the school. If you were rejected from your first choice college, you may be hibernating in your room for awhile. If you didn’t care about getting in, the sting should be less painful. Feeling lousy about rejection is normal, though.
However, you should know that you are entitled to a few perks during this time:
• Unlimited access to your parents’ car
• Permission to go out without calling every 15 minutes to “check in”
• A new puppy
• A trust fund
OK, just kidding about those.
But fortunately there are several coping strategies to try if you are faced with that dreaded thin envelope:
Let time heal you
Remember that this too shall pass. In a week, the sting will hurt a little less, in two weeks, even less and eventually you won’t even remember where you were rejected from.
Remind yourself, “it’s their loss”
Although this cliché never worked for anyone, give it a try. If you say it enough times, maybe you’ll believe it.
Commiserate with others
What I really mean by that is other awesome people whose incredible qualities were overlooked. Misery loves company.
Go ahead, brood
It’s OK to dwell for awhile. Allow yourself some time to obsess, sulk, vent,—anything that will help you get the pain out of your system. Don’t, however, indulge too long. If you’re still crying at your graduation ceremony, seek help.
Acknowledge your inadequacy
Realize that you’re just not good enough. The admissions committee was obviously very insightful in detecting flaws in your character and deficiencies in your talents from just a few sheets of paper. Do you see how ridiculous that sounds? In the end, no college can make you feel inferior without your consent.
The best thing you can do is get excited about where you are going to school. Instead of dwelling on rejections, start thinking about your options and immerse yourself in the idea of attending other colleges. And don’t be afraid of being cheesy; purchase every baseball cap, bumper sticker and sweatshirt the bookstore has in stock. Get excited about your school!
Risa Lewak, author of Don’t Stalk the Admissions Officer: How to Survive the College Admissions Process Without Losing Your Mind, also worked as a pre-admissions counselor and recruiter for Hunter College.