We regret to inform you…

It’s important to experience rejection but deal with it a healthy way


Charlotte Chui and Jennie Chen

In the midst of college admission decisions, rejection seemingly becomes a commonplace. The rejection from a safety school is unexpected. Your test scores are above average, and you didn’t think your extracurriculars or teacher recommendations were too shabby either. You ask around for your peers’ results, browse numerous threads on r/ApplyingToCollege and College Confidential and are slightly miffed upon seeing that people who were accepted had the same — or even lower — statistics.

It’s a huge blow to your ego and confidence in future decisions. In the moment, it’s not enough to be told that the college you end up at doesn’t determine your future, and that “it’s what you make of the experience.” Even the politely-worded rejection letter encouraging you to take pride in your accomplishments and saying that the decision isn’t a reflection on you as a person, seems insincere.

In the face of rejection, the competitive culture of college admissions lures students in. When a highly anticipated school releases its admission decisions and you’re rejected — along with the majority of your peers — there’s often a frantic flurry to find out who got in, what their stats were, what they had that you lacked.

It might be an effort to justify that rejection, to make it sting a little less. If you could just find a logical reason behind why you received that rejection, it feels like it’ll be easier to swallow or that it’ll be easier to move on with peace of mind. But does that really work? At that point, there’s nothing we can change about our results, and finding out more about the success of your peers at such a low point probably won’t actually make you feel any better.

In terms of college admissions, it’s important to realize that it’s unlikely you’ll be accepted into every single school you apply to. There are unpredictable factors at play and ones that are completely out of your control.

You might not be able to control rejection, but you can control the way you react to it, and that makes all the difference.

Maybe you were rejected because the admissions officer didn’t think you would fit in at the school. Maybe you had an admissions officer similar to a SUNY Buffalo State admissions officer, who confessed that they rejected all the applications they read the day after they got food poisoning. Maybe there isn’t even a concrete answer of why, so attempting to find out and wasting time dwelling on and analyzing it will only prove futile.

It might be hard to separate external success from feeling good about yourself. It’s easy to feel that acceptances and compliments will make you feel better. And it takes a great deal of effort to come to terms with rejection. But take time to realize and remember that colleges only know what you showed them, and that there’s so much to being a person that can’t be summed up in supplemental essays or interviews. The more you equate your sense of self worth with your college results, the worse off you’ll be. Your understanding of your worth as a human being should not be contingent on what an admissions officer thousands of miles away spent a few minutes trying to understand.

College admissions is one of the first large hurdles that high school students face in terms of rejection. It elicits an intense, emotional response, and you may not be able to stand it at first. After all, it’s rejection. It has the ability to make us feel incredibly insecure.

Some people may be able to brush it off and continue on their merry way. Others won’t be as unaffected, and it’s healthy to take the time to mourn the possibilities of what could have been, consult your support system and organize your thoughts. You might not be able to control rejection, but you can control the way you react to it, and that makes all the difference.

While it’s important to not delve too deeply into the inner workings of college admissions decisions, the same advice might not apply to a “no” from a sports team, summer program or employer. There are aspects you can improve upon for future endeavors.

When you’re cut from a sports team, it might be in your best interest to talk to the coach and find out why, so you can put that specific advice into your practices. Try out again next year and show everyone how much you improved.

When you’re rejected from that prestigious summer camp you were hoping to attend, think of all the aspects of your application. Maybe you already have an inkling of why, or maybe you don’t know where to start. If you’re still intent on the program, take time before next year’s application to possibly boost your GPA, become more involved in extracurriculars that you genuinely enjoy, form relationships with your recommenders or brainstorm more about your essays.

The same goes for job searching. There are definitely aspects you can improve on for next time in light of your rejection. It might be reevaluating your resume, brushing up on interview skills with the help of friends or trying to ask for constructive feedback from employers. They might say no, or you might not like what you hear, but at least you’ll get information that can help you improve and potentially erase any doubts about why you didn’t get an offer.

Rejection is so commonplace, and while this might also be common advice — it’s important to learn from rejection. One failure doesn’t define you or sweep you under a generalization that you can’t escape from. It might not seem like it in the moment, but there are other opportunities out there to work towards — you just have to search or wait. So while it may not be productive to go searching for definitive reasons behind your rejections or obsess over why others weren’t rejected, direct that effort eventually into being receptive and flexible, and look towards the future with newfound conviction.