How to Handle a College Not Accepting You

Not receiving an acceptance letter from a college can hurt. Many students feel down when they find out they have not been admitted to a college, and the hurt can be especially bad when the rejection comes from their “dream school.” However, it is not the end of the world. Instead, look at it as a setback that you will overcome. And, if you’re thinking it may be hard to overcome this challenge, check out these people who also received rejections from a college, but went on to do amazing things!

  • Katie Couric was not accepted to Smith College in Massachusetts. However, she was admitted to the University of Virginia and went on to be one of the most recognized female journalists in the United States.
  • Barack Obama did not receive an acceptance letter from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. He did get admitted to Occidental College in California and then transferred to Columbia. He went on to be a U.S. Senator and the President of the United States.
  • Steven Spielberg was not admitted to the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinema Arts. He actually applied twice and was not admitted both times. However, he went on to attend California State University, Long Beach. Since then, he has received over 100 awards, including three Oscars.

It is okay to feel sad about not being admitted to a college. It is normal to be sad and feel devastated. It is no fun getting turned down by anyone, including a college you have been picturing yourself at for months. Take your time to be sad, but remember these things:

  • You are not alone. Many students will be denied admission to one of the colleges they applied for admission. This is especially true for students who apply to highly selective colleges. Stanford University, for example, only accepted 4.69% of the students who applied for admission in 2016. Many of the students who were not offered admission were academically qualified, but Stanford just did not have enough space for all of the students.
  • It’s not personal. You were not denied from a college because admissions officers did not like you. For some students, they may not have been admitted because they were not academically ready for the institution. At highly selective college, only a small percentage of students are accepted while many of the students who apply are academically qualified. The colleges only have a certain amount of seats available for incoming students and many colleges receive many more applications than available seats.
  • Don’t ask “what if’s.” “What if I had better grades?” “What if I submitted a different essay?” “What if’s” will not change the admissions decision, so don’t dwell on the things you cannot change. You are who you are. Don’t change for anyone, including a college. Instead, be yourself and attend a college that wants you.
  • Celebrate the acceptance letters. Colleges do not admit everyone. So, if you received an acceptance letter, celebrate this success.
  • Embrace the colleges that did accept you. All colleges have amazing things to offer students and the colleges that accepted you do too. Embrace the colleges that want you and find the one that feels the best for you.
  • There are other options. If you were not admitted to your dream school, or any of the schools on your list, there are still options:
    • Community College. You can always go to a community college and take general education courses while building up your academic profile and saving money. Later you can transfer to a four-year university.
    • Take a Gap Year. A gap year is an opportunity to take classes, learn a trade, do volunteer work, travel, or take an internship. During this time, you can reapply to the colleges you wanted to attend, or apply to other colleges. However, if you are planning on reapplying, talk to your counselor or admissions officer at the colleges you are considering to see if this is a viable option.
    • Apply to other colleges. There are many colleges that operate on rolling admission and are still accepting applications. Research some of these colleges and see if they might be a good fit for you and apply for admission.

A rejection letter is not the end of the world. Not being admitted to a college is just a detour on your way to your ultimate goal of a college degree. Detours are not always the route you wanted to take, but sometimes you will find them to be a better way to get to your destination. Embrace your options and move on to the destination that feels the best for your situation.

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