Dealing with College Rejection—now what?

I remember getting rejected from my dream school like it was just yesterday. It was early spring of 2013 and I was on a class trip when I got the fateful email from The University of Chicago. “Dear Eliani, we regret to inform you,” I stopped reading there. ‘Dear Eliani?’ I scoffed. I wasn’t dear. If I was dear they would have let me in. ‘We regret to inform you,’ I rolled my eyes. If you really regretted it, you would have let me in. To say that I was crushed is an understatement. I went off to be by myself for a few hours and cried about what then felt like a great loss.

But I couldn’t mope for long. I was about to graduate, my next question—as should be yours—was “What next?” Hopefully, you’re like me and didn’t put all of your eggs in one basket and applied to multiple schools. And if you did, that’s okay too. A lot of schools have rolling admission and late deadlines, so even if you got rejected from your one school, or even all of your schools, there’s still plenty of hope that you’ll make it to college in the fall.

Despite there still being hope, it might still be tough to just get over the rejection. A few things to remember are that a degree is a degree, and your education will be just as valuable and just as much of an investment even if you have to go to a state school versus a fancy ivy league. Secondly, if you’re trying to go into a field where you will require a post graduate education—for example, if you’re trying to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a businesswoman—where you get your undergraduate degree matters a whole lot less. A lot of us are inclined to go to the fancy out of state private school. We all shoot for the Harvards, the Cornells, the Carnegies, but when you’re looking at another 6-10 years of school after high school, you have to ask yourself: do you have Harvard money?

Maybe none of this is helping, and you’re still bummed you won’t be going to your dream school in the fall. My next recommendation would be to research the schools you did get into. Find reasons to fall in love with them. Do they have a really cool tradition that you’re excited to be a part of? Do they have a budding Greek life that you wouldn’t have thought to join at your dream school? Are they in really great locations that you never would have thought to live in had you not applied?

If you’re like me, you don’t take rejection well, and despite telling yourself that you’re saving money and starting to fall in love with your new alma matter, you’re still reeling from the rejection. I remember going to my college orientation, still miserable that I wasn’t on a plane to Chicago. I also remember falling in love with my campus the second I set foot on it. I remember marveling at how different the city was from my home town. And most importantly, I remember the excitement I had as I explored and met new people, and finally felt happy to be attending my new school.

My main takeaway is this: There are plenty of fish in the sea, and even more universities for you to apply to. They might not be the school of your dreams, but they have every potential to be the schools of your successful and happy reality.

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