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3 Healthy Ways to Overcome College Rejection

3 Healthy Ways to Overcome College Rejection

As hard as students try, it's never a guarantee that they will get into their dream college. A student may receive that dreaded rejection letter for a number of reasons, from a lower than hoped for GPA, to subpar recommendation letters, to a lack of available spots left at the university – or, most likely, a combination of various factors. Regardless, the sting of admissions disappointment is never easy to handle.

The good news is that most students will still have one or more acceptances from other schools to choose from. But if they're safety schools, how can students maximize the college experience when it wasn't the one they were planning on? Check out these tips from current college students who have each figured out how to find the best in their schools.


1. Realize it's OK to be disappointed: The first step is to sit down and honestly face the rejections you received. Ignoring them or pretending they don't affect you will likely catch up with you later. Rhiannon Grodnik, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, says she received numerous rejections from colleges and experienced a lot of disappointment.

"Even though I knew, rationally, that these decisions were all out of my control and that it did not really mean I was not good enough, it still felt that way," she said via email. "I definitely felt a lot of pressure. I just tried to keep my mind off it."

Grodnik was also placed on waitlists for several schools, but UPenn, which she was interested in attending, turned into an acceptance. She says she made an active effort to be involved on campus in order to acclimate to her new home, joining a singing group and an equestrian team.

High school students dealing with college admissions rejection may wish to follow Grodnik's lead. After taking the time to come to terms with the disappointment – and understanding that those feelings are normal and acceptable – moving on becomes more feasible, and you'll be able to see what can make you happy in the school you do end up attending.


2. Know that more than one college can be a good fit: It can be easy to get excited about the prospects of one particular school, so much so that no other college seems to compare. While your dream school may fit all of your requirements, it is crucial to understand that this doesn't mean another school out there – or two or three – can't fulfill those requirements as well.

A freshman at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Meredith Ball, says this is a key mantra to keep in mind.

"It is a widely circulated myth that there is only one perfect college for you. The truth is, a lot of colleges can be perfect for you," she said via email. "It is almost impossible for you to make a truly bad choice. Once you decide, try to get excited!"

Ball, who applied early decision to the College of William and Mary, had to retract her applications to the other six schools she applied to after she received her early acceptance. While she didn't experience any admissions rejections, she was prepared to make the most of whichever college experience she ended up with, and she advises high school students to do the same if they're forced to choose between their second- or third-choice schools.

"Don't let the rejection continue to haunt you. Take an in-depth look at the schools you have been accepted to. If you can, narrow it down to a few you are interested in. Try to attend any admitted student events," she said. "Talk to students and professors about the school. Shadow a student for a day or weekend. After doing this, one school may stick out as a clear favorite."


3. Stick to your passions: Even if your dream school is out of reach, nothing can take away the hobbies and interests that make you happy.

One of the most talked-about aspects of the college experience is the ability to join numerous clubs, groups and teams where you can meet peers who share your passions and talents. Most universities have a plethora of extracurricular activities available, and you will likely be able to find something that fits your interests.

Kevin Tran, currently a sophomore, transferred to the University of North Carolina—Charlotte due to financial reasons after spending his freshman year at Wake Forest University, also in North Carolina. He says he didn't feel positive about the transfer initially and had to work hard to adjust to the new environment, and that the advice he would give students dealing with a rejection letter is the same advice he gave himself: stay close to your passions.

At his school, Tran has become involved in the band program, the Catholic Campus Ministry and the philosophy department. "I can confidently say that I'm making plenty of new friends, and I can thankfully say that my passions – music, church and my field of study – are driving my motivation to be happy," he said via email.

Ball echoes the sentiment. "Don't hide in your dorm room and wish you were somewhere else, even if you do," she said. "Since coming to college, I have tried so many new things I never would have in high school. I have met amazing people and gotten involved in really cool organizations, all because I decided I was going to take more risks."

Each of these students went through different admissions scenarios but used healthy strategies to move past disappointments or pressures to set themselves up for successful college experiences.

"The same passion or passions that drove you into success in high school will make college the most exciting time of your life, regardless if you end up in your dream school, or your backup or your backup's backup," said Tran.

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