Maybe you’ve experienced rejection before. Like, a so-called friend playing with someone else on the playground? Or being turned down by the person whom you asked to the dance? Or maybe not enough people liking or sharing your social media post? No matter what form it comes in, rejection stings.
This time of year, many seniors are still waiting on final decisions from schools with late March/early April notification timelines. Seniors have been waiting for months after clicking “Submit” for these final updates, which will round out their list of Acceptances and...quite possibly...Denials.
If you happen to open a letter or email from one of your final schools only to see the dreaded tagline, “We regret to inform you…” or “Unfortunately…” you may need some assistance working through the cascade of emotions that come with rejection.
Shock & Sadness
A totally normal response to bad news. Yet, the rejection from a school which you were really hoping to attend can be particularly saddening. You may have envisioned yourself on campus already and dreamt of the future you saw for yourself there. Heck, you may have even purchased a sweatshirt from the bookstore! Before you burn or trash any of your swag, follow the 24 Hour Rule.
24 Hour Rule
Give yourself 24 hours to experience all the feels. Whatever your heart and head are feeling, sit with it. Allow yourself to be bummed. And indulge yourself in (healthy) ways of coping. Order a pizza. Eat that pint of ice cream. Binge watch Netflix. Call up the friend. Complain to your parents. Use up a whole box of tissues. Journal. Sleep. Go for a walk/run. Talk about it. Or don’t. But give yourself the permission to be bummed for 24 hours. And in that time, give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do (again...healthily!) to manage your big emotions.
Stay OFF social media
Easier said than done. But, nothing can be more damaging in the initial 24 hours following bad news than to see your peers posting about their acceptances. You don’t want to react or comment in some way that creates more turmoil for you!
During those first 24 hours post-rejection, you may come face-to-face with anger. Anger at yourself. Anger at the admissions committee. Downright red-faced anger. Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough!” or “They didn’t want me!” may fill your head. You may even find your anger directed at other students who were accepted to the schools from which you were denied. In such cases, you may think, “I have better _______ [insert GPA/test scores/etc.] than them!” All of this is completely normal. But do NOT go on social media. Or act out on that anger. Healthy coping is key!
“I left it all on the app” is a helpful mantra to adopt while you are honoring the 24 Hour Rule. We often tell athletes to “Leave it all on the field” or actors to “Leave it all on the stage”. In other words, there is NOTHING you shoulda or coulda done differently. You left it all on the app. You had a mere few pages to translate your humanity and story to another school and in those pages, you did all you could do to put your very best foot forward. You are good enough and your application was good enough because it was a solid representation of YOU. What you don’t know (and never will) is what the rest of the applicant pool looked like and what the school(s) from which you were rejected needed in their incoming class.
Applicant Pool & the College
You will never know what the rest of the applicants against whom your application was evaluated had to offer. Perhaps you and another applicant were equally favored in the admissions office, BUT the other applicant happened to be a renowned piccolo player and the band at said school is about to graduate their piccolo player! These are the variables that influence admissions decisions ALL. OF. THE. TIME. We just never get to know about them. There are many “behind the scenes” factors influencing if a school can accept a student or not that go way way way beyond if your application was strong enough.
48 Hour Rule
After those first 24 hours have lapsed, it’s time to follow the 48 Hour Rule. For the next 48 hours, you will focus on the upward turn and the reconstruction of your plans. Hone in on the list of schools to which you have been accepted. Begin to research them with greater depth and zeal. Narrow your list to those at which you could really see yourself. Now that your list of options is truly finalized, make a plan to revisit (or visit for the first time) your final few. Check to see if these schools have an Admitted Students Day coming up. If not, schedule another visit (work this out with your admissions counselor). It’s time to start looking at each prospect with FRESH eyes and seeing them as real possibilities for you now.
From rejection you can build resilience. You can prove to yourself that you have the ability to work through big emotions. You have the ability to handle rejection. And, by making a plan, visiting your prospective schools, and refocusing on the possibilities ahead, you will move forward confidently.
**Parents: Be sure to check out the partner post to this one "ParentingThrough College Rejection: A Parent Perspective"