Spring is in the air, and envelopes from colleges are in the mail. Anxiety levels begin to shoot through the roof as high school seniors across the country anxiously wait for responses from schools where they applied. Some students eagerly tear into the paperwork when it arrives and others are too scared to look, somehow assuming that they’ll have a greater chance of being accepted if Mom or Dad rips the envelope open, especially if it’s on the thin side. It’s time to learn the answer to that haunting question: “Did I get in?!”
It’s important to remember that receiving a rejection letter from a college doesn’t mean that you’re a personal failure. Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s the truth. I think that Sue Shellenbarger at the Wall Street Journal puts it best: “Rejections aren’t uncommon. Harvard accepts only a little more than 7% of the 29,000 undergraduate applications it receives each year, and Stanford’s acceptance rate is about the same.”
For some, though, receiving a rejection letter from a dream college seems to be the first major setback in life. Students that have made straight A’s their entire lives while doing volunteer work and participating in every club, sport, and organization possible are typically used to getting whatever they want. Truth be told, most of the people applying to elite Ivy League schools can make the same claim.
Just try to think of it statistically: colleges receive many more applications than they have openings, so they will obviously have to turn away students … it’s just hard to deal with when you’re the one getting the rejection letter.
Or rejection letters, plural. If you’ve applied to ten or twelve schools with hopes of having the opportunity to choose from all of them, you’re probably in for a rude awakening. Most likely, you’re not going to be accepted to that many schools, especially if they’re all extremely selective and your grades or SAT scores aren’t incredibly impressive.
As the College Board explains, “Colleges have many reasons for rejecting students, and there is always an aspect of randomness in the process. Student merit is not the only factor in a school’s decision. Schools also must address their own needs for a diverse population or for strength on sports teams or in specific degree programs.”
It seems as if Harvard tries to be consoling when turning people down. Their rejection letters claim that “Past experience suggests that the particular college a student attends is far less important than what the student does to develop his or her strengths and talents over the next four years.”
Once you get over the initial shock and depression you’ll most likely feel, it’s time to get your chin up. Rejection letters are not the end of the world. The roof didn’t just blow off your house, you didn’t get fired from a job, and you didn’t wind up at school naked. OK, I’ll admit that last one was a bad joke, but it’s true. You’re still a cool person with great grades, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise.
It may be a bit awkward if your best friend was accepted into your dream school but you were not, and it will seem even worse if you were hoping to attend your parents’ alma mater. However, try as hard as you can to avoid letting anyone else’s situation bring you down. I know, I know, that’s also easier said than done, but you’re a successful student and you’re going to go to school somewhere else. That’s all there is to it.
Some famous “college rejects” include billionaire Warren Buffett, who was turned away from Harvard Business School but states that “I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better.” Yeah, I’d say it did …
Today show co-host Meredith Viera was also rejected from Harvard. Ms. Vieira went on to meet a mentor at Tufts University who sparked her interest in journalism by offering her an internship. Had she not been rejected, she doubts that she would have entered the field.
“Time puts rejection letters in perspective,” says media mogul Ted Turner, who was rejected by both Princeton and Harvard. He went on to build his father’s company into the media empire that spawned CNN. “A rejection letter doesn’t even come close to losing loved ones in your family. That is the hard stuff to survive,” Mr. Turner says. “I want to be sure to make this point: I did everything I did without a college degree,” he says. While it is better to have one, “you can be successful without it.”
If you weren’t accepted to the school of your choice, you still need to go to school somewhere. You could always attend your second choice school. You could always consider attending another college for a year or two and reapplying to your first choice. If you continue succeeding in your academic career and show that you have what it takes, you may get those pesky admissions counselors to reconsider. Many students opt to attend community college and earn an associate’s degree before reapplying to the school of their dreams.
Reference The Wall Street Journal
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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