What to Do if You Don't Get Into the College of Your Choice

Finding the silver lining in a rejection letter can take work, but it’s worth it.

By Ashley Henshaw | February 17, 2017

Don’t get caught in a downward spiral of self-doubt. Instead, take small steps to rebuild your confidence.
Photo: Thinkstock

You may have excitedly sent in your application to your dream college only to be plagued by fears of a potential rejection letter. Whether you’ve already received one or are still nervously waiting to hear back, keep in mind that rejection letters aren’t the end of the world. In fact, they can be the beginning of an exciting new adventure. Learn more about what to do if you don’t get into the college of your choice.

There are plenty of options for students who get rejected from their dream schools.

Rebuild Your Confidence

For many students, a rejection letter can be a major blow to their self-esteem. After all your hard work, it’s difficult to hear that you weren’t selected for admission. And it’s natural to be upset and disappointed. The Huffington Post’s “Hey, It’s OK!” series suggest that you allow yourself some time to be upset, but don’t “get caught in a downward spiral of self-doubt.” Instead, take small steps to rebuild your confidence.

Here are a few ways you can boost your self-esteem back up after receiving a rejection letter:

  • Don’t take it personally: There are countless reasons that a college may reject your application, and most of them have nothing to do with you as a person. There are often limited admissions slots available, and certain colleges only accept a small percentage of applicants.
  • Be realistic: Even if you had gotten into your dream school, it wouldn’t have guaranteed the success you hope for. It may have seemed like an answer to all your problems, but the reality is that getting into your dream school doesn’t always translate into future success.
  • Remember your strengths: Just because one college said “no” doesn’t mean your talents have disappeared. You still have all the same strengths, capabilities and potential that you had before. You’ll just be taking those qualities elsewhere. As Jeff Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University, says, “People think the school is somehow going to make something out of you. The truth of the matter is, at any good school, you’re going to make something out of the school.”

Stay Positive

Now that you feel like your old self again, it’s time to get excited about your future. The best way to do that is by focusing on the positive things that can come from this rejection letter. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Lawrence J. Momo’s poignant New York Times essay about why not getting into his dream college was a blessing in disguise. Read this excerpt about what would have happened had he not been rejected from his top choice:

“I would have missed the curriculum my college required and its books, many of which are still dear to me. I would most likely not have chosen my profession, lived where I do or valued the same engagements. I would not have met my wife.”

There are countless good things that could happen as a result of your rejection letter, so look at it as the beginning of a new and exciting path rather than an unfulfilled dream.

The best way to handle a rejection from one of your top schools is to stay positive about your academic future.
Photo: Thinkstock

Evaluate Your Options

With the right mindset, you’re now ready to start mapping out an alternative future. There are plenty of options for students who get rejected from their dream schools. In fact, it’s quite common, so you won’t be alone on your journey. Here are a few key options available to you:

  • Go to one of your “safety” schools: Hopefully, you applied to at least one or two other colleges. Give these colleges a second look now that your top choice is out of the running. Can you see yourself there for the next four years? You may have not given these colleges a lot of thought when you first applied, but an acceptance letter from a safety school could be your ticket to the type of college experience you hoped for.
  • Attend a community college: If you still have your sights set on your dream college or if you don’t have any back-up schools to attend, then community college can be an excellent alternative. Classes there can help you get a jumpstart on your college career at a fraction of the cost. After two years, you’ll have an associate’s degree or you can apply to transfer to a four-year institution.
  • Take a year off: If you choose this option, the National Association for College Admission Counseling suggests taking that time to “work, explore career options, travel, volunteer or participate in any of hundreds of programs for young people.” You might find a new path or gain new experience that will make you more attractive to your dream school if you apply again.

Take it from Huffington Post founder and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington, who calls failure “a stepping-stone to success, as opposed to the opposite of success.” Use these tips to help you forge a new path after being turned down by the college of your choice.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

Community College: Is It For Me?
Transfer Basics
College Transfer Credit Policy
After Acceptance: How to Finally Decide on One School

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