After careful consideration of your application, we regret to inform you that your application has been denied.
The following nights of my first couple college rejections were filled with many tears and I couldn’t help but wonder: what was my application lacking? As someone who took high school academics very seriously, the rejections felt like my hard work was overlooked and underappreciated by these universities. I had this toxic mindset where I constantly compared myself to people who had a better GPA or extracurriculars and was insecure about my application. Over time, I was able to find a new perspective on college rejections. As seniors, we are all going to get rejected- it’s normal. It’s how we move forward from these rejections that is important. I encourage anyone who is going through the college application process to continue reading this article to learn how they can deal with rejection and understand how normal it is.
I applied to my first university back in November, early-decision to Boston University. After a campus tour and speaking with admissions officers, I truly felt it was the best choice university for my future career path. However, I recognized that my GPA wasn’t as high as most of their applicants which could put me at a disadvantage for getting in. This is what prompted me to apply early-decision. After I scrambled to get my application in on time, I felt as if I was already accepted because I applied through this binding agreement. I had replayed this image of me jumping up and down excitedly after opening my decision. However, a month later, I received my decision and, to my surprise and disappointment, I was deferred. At first, I thought I was okay and I told myself I wouldn’t cry, but after the realization hit, I was hysterically balling. I felt so angry that I applied early-decision, that I was ready to commit to this school, and that they didn’t want me.
Nathan Mendoza (‘22) was able to sympathize with me on this and explained the whole college application process as, “it plays with your emotions.” He explained that the outcomes of college decisions are always surprising and can catch you off guard. I genuinely believed that I would have gotten accepted into Boston University and the fact that I didn’t felt like betrayal or like Mendoza described- played with my emotions.
Heather Clegg (‘22) went through a similar situation where she was rejected from her early decision school. Clegg was a student who took the college application process seriously and had been looking forward to it all throughout high school. “I was the type of student who planned out all my classes early, I looked for extracurricular opportunities, and attended essay workshops. I’ve done many things over the years to help me in this moment.”
So, naturally, Clegg was a hopeful applicant to her first choice school. However, she explained the unfortunate result. “The first ever school I heard back from, I was rejected. It definitely hurt a lot. I don’t want to disregard how I was feeling because I think it is so important for other people who are applying or underclassmen to see the unglorified side of college applications. Not every letter you get is going to be you jumping with your family out of joy. We are all bound to be rejected.” Clegg continued and said that even though at first she felt like it was the end of the world, she was able to move past that. “The end product is that I am proud of what I sent in and whatever the outcome was, was definitely out of my control. I don’t think I could have done more than I have.”
Mendoza, on the other hand, felt that his deferral from this dream school was expected. “Throughout my life, I always kept it real with myself, like I have never been the type of person to have ‘false hope.’ Not that all hope is false, but rather that I am just a realistic person. So, when I got deferred, I wasn’t really expecting to get accepted and I was just glad it wasn’t a rejection.” He continued to explain that he tried to look at his deferral positively by understanding that his application would get another read through.
Even though I also received a deferral, I had a hard time coping with it the way Clegg and Mendoza did. Clegg’s healthy mindset of having no regrets on her application was something I struggled with for a while. I found myself thinking about my weaknesses on my application, like my low freshman year grades or extracurricular activities. This sense of insecurity heightened once I received other rejections. I was wondering if something was seriously wrong with my application. These two rejections were hard on me and I won’t pretend like I didn’t want to go there anyways, because I did.
The biggest part of moving past a college rejection is to honestly acknowledge your anger. The rejections I received made me more aggravated than sad or upset. I was just so mad about them for a while but eventually I had to realize that my only option after a rejection was to get over it. Like Clegg said earlier, there’s nothing I could have done to make my application stronger or change the outcome. However, I do realize that many people, including me, simply question their academic worth after a rejection.
At first, I felt that a rejection was a pure indication of me as a student. It certainly felt that way in the moment, but I had to remind myself that these colleges were only seeing the student I was on a piece of paper. They don’t know how much I might have studied for a certain test or how much effort I put into a specific leadership position in a club. They simply see my letter grades and 250 characters that describe the clubs I am part of.
Additionally, I tried to come to terms with the idea that maybe I just wasn’t the ideal person for a certain university’s environment. Of course every college accepts a diverse incoming class, but at the same time they accept students who are fit for the type of education and environment they provide. So rather than taking a rejection as a “rejection” I tried to take it as I “wasn’t the right fit.” Similarly, Clegg said, “one school’s loss is another school’s gain.”
As I am learning that I will end up at the university that I am meant to be at, it might not end up being what is considered a prestigious college. Fortunately, I am working on being okay with that because, as a premedical student, the curriculum is already hard as is and attending a prestigious school with extremely rigorous academics might not be the best choice for me. I’m realizing that I should attend a university that can provide me with the sweet spot between challenging but not overwhelming, which might not end up being the top universities.
While there is the pride aspect of getting into a “good” college, an article from The New Republic called “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League,” suggested that top universities often turn academically curious students into academically burnt out students. William Deresiewicz, a retired Yale professor, said about his students, “if you look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment, you often find toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation.”
Obviously this isn’t the case for every student that attends a top university, but personally I feel that it’s something that would happen to me. I want to stay an academically motivated student since I plan to go to medical school
Another thing that helped me move past college rejection was recognizing that when applying to selective schools, there’s obviously thousands of applicants and not enough spots. So, sometimes a rejection isn’t a reflection of you as a student, but just your luck. Rohit Kantipudi (‘19), a recent graduate of Oyster River, explained this further. “[When I first got into college] it made me feel like all my hard work was worth it. Initially, it feels really good, but when you really think about it you’re basically ‘lucky’ to get into any college you get into because there’s so many more qualified applicants than there are spots,” he said.
The biggest thing that allowed me to move past rejection was the costs of these universities. Boston University, Northeastern, and Tufts all cost around 60k a year and attending a university at these prices would honestly be a poor financial decision as someone who hopes to pursue further education. Rachel Rowley (‘22) expanded on this. “Yes, having a good name brand college on your resume is a good thing, but even if it is absent I don’t think you are ever at a disadvantage…I want to go to law school. I want to excel in undergrad and spend the least amount of money possible.” She continued, “I think a lot of students need to discover tuition…you don’t want to be in debt forever.”
Kantipudi expanded on Rowley’s point of excelling in undergraduate education. He said, “I was lucky enough to attend my reach school but I think I should have had a different mindset when I was applying to schools. I should have had the mindset that ‘it truly does not matter that much the prestige of the place you go to.’ Even at a more average university, whatever is average for you, you can always stand out by working hard. I wish I was more open to more outcomes.”
Lastly, I felt that I needed to give myself more credit for even getting through the application process. As much as the rejections hurt, I still should be proud of submitting the applications considering how stressful it was. Getting through the college application process is truly an accomplishment on its own and one worth celebrating.
No matter what other rejections or maybe acceptances I receive in the next couple months, I plan on reminding myself that the whole point of college is to get an education, meet new people, and have a good experience. These are things that can be found at any university if you make the best out of it. I encourage all other seniors who might be feeling the same negative emotions as I did to take a step back and realize a rejection is not the end of the world. You are going to end up exactly where you should be.