Dealing with College Rejection

Just beyond the joy of the Holidays and the coming of the New Year, with the promise of spring in the air lies the day that every student dreads—Ivy Day. As college letters go out, many students will have to face the rejection of not being accepted into the school of their dreams. Here in Bergen and Passaic County, New Jersey, it’s a time of great anticipation as well as anxiety for students and parents alike.

It’s tough—receiving one of those dreaded rejection letters can be devastating and can really affect a student’s confidence. Almost 41% of students who start college won’t finish according to the US Department of Education. As parents, it is our responsibility to rebuild confidence that may be tenuous after college rejection. Maintaining self-esteem and confidence is essential to a successful transition into college. Here are some tips for getting your student through a college rejection.

College Acceptance is not a Measure of Self Worth

From the start of the college application process, it is important to prepare your student emotionally and mentally for all possible outcomes. Reinforce the fact that a rejection letter does not mean that they are not good enough. Ensure that their sense of confidence is rooted in things like self-worth and happiness rather than external validation.

It’s not You, It’s Us

Each College and University has a persona; an atmosphere that pervades its walls and is determined in no small part by its location. This means that while you may have an outstanding student, if they aren’t a good fit, the school will give their spot to someone who is more likely to succeed in that particular environment. This means that perhaps your student is too ambitious for the small-town setting of a College or perhaps they are overlooked for someone who would make a more valuable contribution to a sports team.

Don’t Take it Personally

This may sound like something that’s easier said than done, but it’s true. ABC news reported that, in 2007, Harvard received 23,000 freshman applications for 2,058 spots. That was then — now it’s an even smaller percentage of applicants get acceptance letters. Always have a plan B so that if your student isn’t accepted into the college of their dreams, they have a second and even third choice to fall back on. Getting a few acceptance letters will help to ease the pain of rejection. Rejoice in the acceptance, don’t wallow in the rejection.

Never Give Up

Some universities offer an appeals process for rejected applications. However, appeals tend to focus on applications that contained errors, like incorrect test scores or missing documents. If you appeal, you need to bring something to the table like a better letter of recommendation or some new achievements since your last application.

While your student may find that their second or third-choice school becomes their favorite place in the world, if their heart is still set on going to a particular college, they can focus on working really hard over their first year or two in college. They can then apply to transfer after each semester as competition for first year admittance is not as fierce: there may just be space for them!