Rejected! How to Cope and What to Do

Wondering how to handle a college rejection? And what you could have done differently? Here are four steps to move your life forward.

After all your years of hard work, does it really come down to this? Can life really go on? Believe it or not, it can.

1. Don't Take It Personally

  • Don't beat yourself up for something that is out of your control. A denial from a college is not a personal indictment. Rejection is a natural part of the admissions process. It simply means the college decided not to admit you for any of a variety of reasons.
  • Allow yourself some time to feel blue. A vision of your future has vanished. It's natural to grieve a little. Then turn your attention to regrouping and mapping out your path ahead.

2. Find Ways to Cope

  • Take stock of how you have grown personally. As you prepared for college, you mastered complex subjects. You helped others. You became more confident in yourself. A denial does not take any of that away.
  • Commiserate with other rejected students. (They won't be hard to find!) You are not the only person to receive one or more thin envelopes. Some students even make informal clubs for people rejected by particular colleges.

3. Get Some Perspective

  • Why did you want the college that rejected you? Does that college have a lock on the qualities you want? Probably not. It's highly likely that you can find many of the same qualities at other schools.
  • Take a critical look at your qualifications for that college. Did your GPA and test scores put you in the upper third of that college's current freshman class? If not, focus on colleges where your stats make you a strong candidate.

4. Turn to Colleges That Are Saying Yes

  • What acceptances do you have in hand or think you will get? Put serious thought into the colleges that have accepted you. Decide which of these colleges are your top choices, and consider visiting them. Many students report that they see campuses in a whole new light after they've been accepted.
  • If you are still dwelling on your rejection, try to stop. The more you let go, the more your acceptances can be evaluated on their own merits.

If You Can't Let Go

If your heart is still set on a college that turned you down, you have options.

  • Ask the college to reconsider your application. You'll have a chance of success with this strategy only if significant information, such as your latest test scores, was missing from your application.
  • Take a gap year and reapply. Defer admission to a college you like that admitted you. Then take steps to significantly improve your application while doing something meaningful. Reapply, using your essay to explain what you learned from your year "off."
  • Reapply later as a transfer student. Just be sure you do well at the college you attend as a freshman and you give that college a fair shake. For more about transferring, see Applying to College as a Transfer Student.

What's Next?