Dealing with College Rejection
Even the most talented and experienced of us get rejected from things from time to time. Dealing with rejection can be incredibly hard, especially in an academic context. If something doesn’t go according to plan, like your first-choice college rejecting your application, you may not be optimistic about the rest of your options. You’ve been waiting your whole life to go to college, and not getting your first choice can feel like the end of the world. Believe us, it isn’t.
At Livius, we’ve been dealing with college rejection since our first students sent out their college applications decades ago. Back then, you’d get one of two responses from a college: a thick acceptance packet or a thin envelope with rejection letter. The second option was always painful.
Rejection hurts, but the college application process is tailored for you to expect a little rejection. The reason you apply to 7-15 colleges is in case your first choice college rejects you. This rejection may seem like the worst-case scenario, but it really isn’t. You have 6-14 backup options that, if you made your list right, will still give you an amazing college experience!
The best way to deal with rejection is to have a plan. Luckily, you already have 6-14 Plan Bs, but when rejected, you have more options than you might think.
One course of action is to attend one of your backup/safety schools. If you applied to the right kind of schools, these will be schools that meet most of your needs and wants for a college but fall just short of being first choice. Many students end up going to one of these schools and having a fantastic college career, so keep an open mind!
Another option is to take a gap year to improve your application. Gap years are a 1-year recess from academia to focus on other interests, preferably ones that will enrich your application narrative and give you the extra boost you need to shoot for that first choice college again.
Gap years are often used for internships, travel, or non-academic classes. Students take the time to explore interests and discover themselves before college, so that they can put their best foot forward when they finally go back to school.
One of my classmates at UMass Boston spent his gap year at culinary school in Germany. He came back to America with a certification from a Michelin Star culinary school, and he learned German while he was there. If your application is initially rejected, something like this can give it a major boost!
Athletes also have the option of going to specific, focused programs designed to help them get into major universities with good athletics programs. If you plan on playing a sport in college, look into these gap-year programs which often include a living space and college exam help. After a program like this, your application will be much stronger!
Another option, especially if you still want to attend that first-choice college, is a brief stint at a community college. The community college advantage comes from attending a low-cost, low-stress, flexible school that lets anyone in, so long as they can pay the low tuition fees.
Attending community college to complete some required college courses is a very strong option. While the education from these schools may not be as rigorous as a traditional university, the credits are just as good, and completing some of the college courses you need, like basic or core requirements, at a community college can save you money, time, and stress.
Applying to a four-year college when you have already earned an associate degree may make for a much stronger application than if you only have a high-school diploma. This also means you can earn your bachelor’s degree in just two more years.
The community college route won’t get you into your first-choice college right away, but it can get you there eventually. Slow and steady wins the race.
You may feel as if none of these options appeal to you, and all you want to do is go to your first-choice college right away. It may not be what you imagined but give your backup schools a fair chance. Maybe they’re not in the city/town you wanted to live in, but college is college, and you will adapt. No matter where you go, you will find friends, a good life, and a great college experience.
If your first-choice college rejects you, don’t worry. You have many backup plans that are just as good, if not better, than the traditional path. You may spend a few years at a different school, in another country, or finding your own way, but you can still make it into your first-choice college if you have a backup plan and stick to it!