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How to deal with college application rejections before they even happen

Dec. 12, 2017
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Dear Applicant,

Thank you for your interest in this college that you have spent the past few months falling in love with and building up in your head. 

Welcome to the college application season.

Your fingers have been hitting “refresh” on your email account for the past 15 minutes, and you're wondering when colleges will finally release their decisions and notify you of your fate. You're hoping that these messages will start with a “Congratulations!” rather than a “We regret to inform you”.

As a high school senior, I can easily say that I’ve found myself stressing over this feeling of uncertainty in regard to my pursuit of a higher education. I’ve read all of my college essays and supplements over and over again. I’ve gone through every corner of each college's website. I've read their course catalogs, researched notable alumni, and spent endless hours watching dorm tours. I’ve fallen in love with multiple schools, and I made sure that wherever I applied, I would be happy to attend there next fall.

As my early decision (ED) and early action (EA) schools are rolling out over the next month, I’ve been having a lot of late-night conversations with my mother, who urges me to not get my hopes up.

“You need to chill,” she said to me the other night, cutting off one of my rants. “You just need to believe in yourself and let fate take the wheel.” As much as I didn’t want to agree with her, she was right—I needed to believe in myself.

The second you hit “send”, there's nothing else you can do, other than waiting and keeping up with grades and extracurriculars. If you’re scared or filled with anxiety like I am, start writing letters to your future self, affirming your self-worth. Remind yourself that there are others out there that may be more qualified than you and that some schools even turn down students with perfect SATs and 4.0 GPAs. Harvard, for instance, has a 5.4% admission rate. Most students who apply to Harvard University are at the top of their classes and excelling in their fields, yet 94.6% of them are rejected. We all have to know our strengths and weaknesses. 

Neither rejection nor acceptance defines one’s self-worth, even if it feels like that sometimes. When the time is up, when we finish reading that heart-wrenching rejection letter, we all have to pick ourselves back up and resume our daily routines. It’s okay to let yourself heal over a season of Riverdale and a tub of strawberry cheesecake ice cream. But keep in mind that even if this college rejects you, there are other schools that will want you. Remember that one college that has been sending you promotional e-mails every day since the beginning of sophomore year? Give them a look—maybe you’ll find your place there.

If you truly missed out on your dream school this round, there’s always next year. You can opt for a transfer or even wait to apply there when you're ready for graduate school.

Rejections are hard to deal with, but everything happens for a reason; your future successes and endeavors will only prove that.

Best of luck,

Wen Hsiao