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Rejected! How to Cope and What to Do

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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, especially if you keep some of these tips in mind.


  • 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 embrace your feelings. A vision of your future has vanished. It's natural to grieve a little, or to feel angry, disappointed, frustrated, depressed, or envious of friends who were admitted. Feel whatever feelings come up, and when you feel ready, turn your attention to regrouping and mapping out your path ahead.


  • Take stock of how you have grown personally. As you prepared for college, you may have mastered complex subjects. You may have helped others. You may have become more confident in yourself. A rejection 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 college rejection letters. Some students even form informal online college rejection groups that allow them to commiserate with other students. Consider reading about famous people who also got rejected from their dream colleges and still went on to achieve great things.


  • 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, the college might not have been the right academic fit for you. If you were denied in an early decision round, and there is time to apply to more colleges, focus on schools where your stats make you a strong candidate.


  • Put serious thought into the colleges at which you have been accepted and consider visiting them or reaching out to current students. Many students report that they see campuses in a whole new light after they've been accepted.

  • If you did not get in anywhere, make a backup plan. Consider applying to colleges with rolling admissions, taking a gap year, or attending community college.

  • If you are still dwelling on your rejection, try to stop. Letting go of the colleges to which you were not admitted may help you evaluate your acceptances or other options on their own merits.


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

  • 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. Realize, too, that you might be setting yourself up for a second rejection. Do you want to go through that experience again?

  • Reapply after a gap year. Taking a gap year will allow you to take steps to significantly improve your application while doing something meaningful. When you reapply, use your essay to explain what you learned from your year "off." If you do take a gap year, first consider deferring admission to a college that accepted you, so that you have a college to attend if you are not admitted to your top choice a second time.

  • Reapply as a transfer student. You might be able to reapply to your dream school after a year at another four-year college, or after one or two years at a community college. Just be sure you do well at the college you attend as a freshman and that you give that college a fair shake. 

Receiving a rejection from a college – or multiple colleges – is no fun. Unfortunately, rejection is part of life for anyone who has the courage to pursue their dreams and goals. Learning how to rebound from rejection is an important life skill. Try to see your college rejections as an opportunity for personal growth, then start looking ahead to the new opportunities that are likely to come your way.

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