How to deal with a college rejection

Hana Elster

More stories from Hana Elster


Illustration by Sonia

High school senior gets rejected from her top school and is not sure how to deal with her first rejection.

After a long three months have passed, early action decisions have slowly been pouring out. Seniors chatting among the hallways about the schools that have accepted, deferred or denied them. The intensity and competitiveness to get into one of the top undergraduate programs in the country is especially emphasized in the Bethesda area.

Nobody ever wants to get rejected, but it’s a process that is a part of life and necessary for one to develop as a person. Being able to overcome a rejection now, will only help you later in life. In order to accept your first rejection, you must understand that the college admissions process is a complete toss up. I have gotten into more competitive schools but was rejected from my top school. Opening my first rejection letter killed my ego and made me feel sick to my stomach. I had never been rejected from somewhere that I wanted to attend more than anything. At first, I was not sure what to do with myself, it had been my dream school for the past several years.

Being let down after working for something for your whole life can sometimes send students into a downward spiral. Of all the ways I coped, the thing that helped me the most was realizing that wherever I am meant to go, is where I will be the happiest. Although I do not typically believe in destiny or fate, remembering this made me realize that my “dream school” knew I wouldn’t thrive at their school and I have been better off since.

Another important key to managing your first rejection is to take time to grieve and cry. It is alright to be upset about something you put so much effort into. Watch a movie with friends, get ice cream, go shopping or just do anything that makes you a little bit happier. Once your grieving period is over, get excited for the other colleges you applied to and the future of being at an amazing school.

The final piece of advice I can give to those dealing with rejections from their top schools is to focus on how you can grow from this, how you can better yourself as a student in order to get into other schools where you will excel. Schools should never determine who you are or who you will be. It is up to you to decide how you will grow from your first college rejection.