“I regret to inform you…” Student Advice for Receiving College Rejections

It sucks. It may feel like the world is ending when you read “WE’RE SORRY TO INFORM YOU” or a straight up “no”, from a college portal. Maybe it was your dream school or simply one your mom made you apply to, but no matter what, it sucks. No one likes being told “no,” remember how you used to get when mom wouldn’t let you have ice cream for breakfast? Yeah, humans don’t take “no’s” very well, but here’s some advice for what to do, a productive way to accept a rejection rather than sitting like a hamster on your bed for 12 hours, eating stale popcorn and wishing you had prayed more to the college gods.

Accepting a college rejection is especially hard if all of you friends got in, and you were the straggler.

You’re going to feel isolated and maybe a little left out, a little jealous, a little angry. THESE ARE ALL NORMAL. YOU’D BE FREAKY FOR SMILING YOUR WAY OUT OF A REJECTION. ITS OKAY TO CRY. But please know that 2020-21 was a very competitive year for colleges, all the “test-optional” policies really heightened the process. Schools that would usually get a “normal” amount of applications got thousands more this year, and unfortunately, not everyone could be accepted.

First of all, please don’t take a rejection personally.

Think of it as a college telling you that you’re too awesome for their school. You’re so awesome that they see your potential being filled at another school. Admissions counselors are using an essay (or two) and some numbers to gauge you as a person, and in no way is that the same as meeting you in real life. They aren’t out to make your life impossible, they’re just doing their job.

Second, your worth has nothing to do with a college decision.

As I said above, these people don’t really know you, and are in no position of  power to impact your self-esteem. Getting into Harvard, but not getting into a state school (UT Austin or UCLA, for example) doesn’t say anything about you as a person. College admissions are increasingly hard to predict, and remember that everything happens for a reason (sorry to sound cheesy, but seriously, YOU WILL THRIVE WHEREVER YOU END UP!). If moving to Los Angeles has forever been your childhood dream, there’s always grad school or job opportunities that may lead you there. Life is so unpredictable, and I invite you to live in the moment. Embrace the rejection as a way to get stronger. Sure, it’s going to be hard to see friends get in, but if they’re truly your friends, no distance can change the bond you have.

And lastly…  don’t spend your last months of senior year obsessing over what could’ve been.

I should’ve written about this in my college essay, I should’ve studied more for my ACT/SAT, I should’ve asked for an interview…. etc. Notice how these are all “should’ves.” These are all past tenses, meaning you cannot go back in time. What you submitted is what it is, and no amount of fixation on a college decision will change this. 

So take a deep breath and repeat after me:

I am whole. I am complete. I am good enough as I am and don’t need to change a thing about myself. 

While I know this is easier said than done, repeating it to yourself over and over, will hopefully get you believing it. Because it’s the truth. 

You’re amazing. You will end up in a great place, wherever you choose to go. 

No regrets.

By Valentina Avellaneda (HSPVA Class of 2021)