How to Deal With College Rejections

I wish that I could have read this post that you’re about to read exactly one year ago. It would have saved me from so much bitterness, doubt, and ingratitude that I allowed myself to feel. College acceptances are starting to roll out, but for one person’s acceptance into a school comes another person’s rejection. Getting into a particular college may not be a big deal to some people. However, I made it my everything at the time, which was a big mistake. I’ll start by telling you my story.

Ever since I was young, I’ve been an overachiever and give whatever I do my 100%. That trait carried on in high school. I took the hardest classes on campus, strived for A’s, joined and led clubs, and volunteered. I worked my butt off in hopes that I could get into one of the best universities. College meant so much to me not only because of my dedication, but also because I would be the first in my family to attend a university. I had younger cousins and my brother looking up to me, so I wanted to show them that it was possible to get into a great college.

Towards the end of March of last year, emails started to roll out from colleges I had applied to. Most of the earlier emails were from my “safety” schools. The emails I was anticipating were the ones that came at the very end of the month. One by one, I received emails telling me that I had got accepted into a school, but I didn’t feel grateful or extremely happy because all that mattered to me was whether or not I had gotten into that one dream school.

The day finally arrived when I got the results from my dream school. I remember being so nervous and having such high hopes. This was what I had worked so hard for and prayed for. There was no way I could get rejected! I was wrong. The email said that I was waitlisted, but in my mind that was a solid rejection. It hurt so much because it felt like the four years of hard work in high school was for nothing. I cried long and hard, guys. Unknowingly, the hurt eventually turned to distaste and ungratefulness that I carried on to the end of high school, that summer, and until I actually moved into college.

This is not a post written to crush your dreams about getting into your dream school. For all I know, you might get into the school you want, which would be AMAZING!! I’m also not writing this post to get sympathy. It is actually a bit embarrassing sharing this because I was never really vocal about the hurt I felt at the time. The reason why I am telling you my story is because there is a potential that your plans may not work out. You may not get into the school you want, and I want you to know something that I wish I knew before I read that rejection letter. Wherever you end up going,  it is going to be okay. Trust me on this.

In September of 2017, I came into UCSD as a Molecular Biology major not knowing anything  about the school. I am not kidding. For example, I had no idea that the school overlooked the ocean. Even when I had SIRed to UCSD, I still felt unmotivated to learn about the school because I was continued to be fixed on the reasons why I didn’t get into my dream school. Fast forward a year later from when I got accepted into UCSD. I can honestly tell you that I am so happy here. The more time I spend here, the more I realize how right it is that I am here. I have met some genuinely amazing people that have become my friends, I’m enjoying my classes, and I love the atmosphere here in UC San Diego. It’s only going to get better with time.

Now that I’ve shared my story, I want to let you know what I’ve learned from this whole experience. These are some of the things that I would tell myself a year ago if I could travel back in time. Please hear me out because you do not deserve to feel any hurt after reading a rejection letter.

1. You are not defined by another person’s decision.

So much we don’t know about goes behind the admission process. First of all, think about how many students are applying to the school. Hundreds of thousands from across the nation. Secondly, the admission officers are humans. They are going to accept students into the school according to their opinions. Sure, you may have the best grades and so many extracurriculars, but when it comes down to it, your acceptance into a school is out of your control. So, if you don’t end up getting into your dream school, DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP FOR IT! It wasn’t your fault, and you are not any less of a person because of it. You tried your hardest! If the admissions team could not see your full potential (I mean, how could they through only four essays), then it’s ultimately that school’s loss.

It is understandable to feel sad because you worked hard for it, but don’t allow yourself to linger in nasty thoughts such as, “What could I have done better?” or “All that hard work was for nothing” or “I’m not good enough.” Friend, you are more than enough. Don’t let a college rejection make you feel otherwise.

2. It’s not a competition.

Probably one of the hardest things is going to school the next day after finding out that you didn’t get accepted. You know people are going to ask, and the last thing you want is to be reminded about it. In addition, you’re going to find out about the people who did get into the school. Without thinking, you’ll start to compare yourself to those people. Perhaps you’ll ask yourself why/how you didn’t get in when he/she did. Again, acceptances into a school is out of one’s control so it is futile to ask these questions. Furthermore, these types of thoughts in which you compare yourself to others are unhealthy and pride driven. Learn to humble yourself. As hard as it can be, try to be happy for others who did get in.

In the end, it’s not a competition. People try to get into the best college solely because of its reputation. I didn’t even search what each university I applied to specialized in. Honestly, I wanted to get into my dream school because it was known to be one of the best. Where you end up going to school matters, but not as much as you may think it does. There are amazing opportunities in every college. What really matters is how you make use of your time and those opportunities. You may get accepted into the best college in the world, but if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities, was it really worth going there? My advice to you is to hustle hard and make your mark wherever you go. People are not going to remember you by the college you went to. They’re going to remember you by the impact that you’ve had on their life and your accomplishments.

3. Things will work out in the end.

When things don’t go as you plan, you have to remember that God has a better plan for you. It is so hard to accept it now, but with time you’ll see that when you trust in God, everything will fall into place. The older I get, the more I’ve learned that things happen for a reason. As I mentioned earlier, I did not picture myself coming to UC San Diego, but now that I am here, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! Whenever I struggle with trying to accept when my expectations fall short, I ask myself, “Wouldn’t you rather be in God’s will?” Even if I don’t know what will happen, I feel safer knowing that God is in control.

4. Be Thankful.

Getting accepted into different colleges is something that I took for granted. I should have been more thankful for getting accepted into the ones that I did. Furthermore, I should have been grateful for the opportunity to have even applied for college. Not everyone has the financial means to go receive a higher education.

5. Adventure is out there wherever you go.

During senior year, my friend Natalie and I would talk about how much we wanted to get into our dream schools, but we both ended up going to schools that we didn’t initially picture ourselves in. The funny thing is that when we met up last winter break, all we could talk about was how much we loved the college we went to. I asked her for a tip that I could give you guys, and she said, “There are adventures anywhere you go!” I couldn’t agree more. College is more than the school you go to. It’s also about the experience. As long as you allow yourself to, you are going to have such a fun time meeting new people and being independent!


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I hope that you found this post encouraging. I think that these are things that every high school student should know. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about college or high school!

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