Being turned down by a college can be one of life’s cruelest experiences. You’ll probably experience a range of emotions. You might cry, be angry, get embarrassed, feel bitter—and all that can be in the course of one evening!
Here are some ways of coping.
- Realize you’re feeling the worst right now. The hour, the day, the week after getting the acceptance-denied letter is when the pain is the greatest. Truly, it does fade with each passing day.
- Coast a bit. After you get the news, allow yourself time to take it easy. Talk to your parents, close friends, and high school counselor. Get back in your daily routine, and make sure you get some exercise.
- Try not to feel rejected. “In most top-tier schools, we do a selection process not an admissions process,” says Michael Steidel, admissions director at Carnegie Mellon University. “It’s not that you are incapable of being a success here. Chances are, you would have been able to do the work and been fine.”
- No blames. Some students in your situation instantly regret their entire academic career. Why didn’t I get better grades? Why didn’t I become a star athlete? Don’t fall into that trap. Every experience you had, every choice you made, has made you the excellent person you are today. If you had changed one thing, what else would have been affected?
- Feel proud of your effort. Hockey superstar Wayne Gretsky said “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Unlike others who sit on the sidelines of life, you gave it your best shot. Resolve that this setback will not affect your willingness to aim high.
- Realize you’re in good company. Many people do not get into their first choice college—including many top achievers. Harvard has sent out “no thank you” letters to these people when they were college-bound: investor Warren Buffet, news anchor Tom Brokaw, Senator John Kerry, composer Art Garfunkel, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and Sun Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy.
- Think about Plan B. Take a good look at the schools that have said “Yes” to you. These schools are eager to have you on campus, and they should be your new focus. “Unlike other countries, in the United States people have so many choices of really fine schools,” Steidel says. “There’s a place for everybody, and chance for everyone to succeed.”