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College admissions: How to deal with rejection

Rejection doesn't mean you’re not good enough...it means you have an even better uni lined up. Keep your chin up and find your right study - match!

Ashwin Sriram

Everyone faces some form of rejection while living. A rejection doesn’t depreciate one’s worth as a student. It only implies that your application didn’t meet some of the Uni’s criteria.

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Deciding to study abroad is among the biggest decisions you could take. Deciding on the right course and Uni requires time and thoughtfulness. Once you shortlist some Universities based on your preferences, you’ll have to apply to them and hope that at least one of them sends a positive response.

The application process is long, tedious and a cause of worry for many students. The thought of receiving a dreaded rejection letter can occur even to the best minds. Of course, it can be really disappointing when it does happen, and some of you might even get totally dismayed to the point that you lose hope and give up on your college hunt altogether. But that is no way to face rejection.

Everyone faces some form of rejection at some point in their lives. A rejection doesn’t depreciate one’s worth or quality as a student. It only implies that your application didn’t meet some of the Uni’s criteria. The healthy way to move forward is to accept rejection and take it as a challenge to improve your future applications to Unis.

Below are some helpful tips on dealing with a college application rejection:

  • A rejection can easily turn out to be a blessing in disguise, or an eye-opener for you to apply to another college. Most Unis list out the reasons for the application being rejected. Read the rejection letter carefully and note down the reasons. It could be that you missed out on some important details or failed to attach a necessary document. The key to your future applications lies in understanding the reasons stated in the rejection letter.
  • Some Unis entertain the idea of giving additional feedback to an applicant who has received a rejection letter. If you are ready to look at your application and profile more critically, then you can explore this option.
  • A few Unis allow the student to make an appeal against the rejection letter. You must first find out if your college permits an appeal and then consider making an appeal only if you strongly feel that you didn’t merit a rejection. Some Unis consider an appeal only if the applicant provides new information that drastically improves his/her application.
  • The general rule is to apply to other Unis after you receive a rejection letter. But you still have the option to reapply to the same University that sent you the rejection letter. Just because you were rejected once doesn’t mean it has to happen again. If you are confident of satisfying the Uni’s application criteria, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t reapply.
  • Shortlist a few new Unis to apply to. By applying to more colleges, you stand a better chance of getting into one. Our advice is to apply to no more than three Unis. Write down the pros and cons of the Universities you’ve shortlisted, so you can narrow down your options. Talk to our advisors — they can help you find other Unis to apply to.

Expert Advice

In his article, “On the Joys of Not Getting What You Want,” the New York Times columnist Lawrence J. Momo, who was once denied admission to his dream college, says the rejection was one of the best things that could have happened to him. Momo, who is now the director of college counselling at Trinity School in New York City, offers these two comforting suggestions to students:

  • “Allow yourself some time to be disappointed. The emotion is appropriate and real, so don’t ignore it. But don’t retreat into hiding. Seek out your family and friends for support."
  • “Don’t take the rejection personally. Remember that not getting in (to a Uni) these days is not an embarrassment, just a reflection of a process that is ridiculously out of control. Their bad judgment is not your fault.”

Momo goes on to add these thoughtful lines at the end of his article: “Life is a long, profound and passionate thing, and yours will work out just fine, as clichéd as that sounds. The train you are on just hit a bump; it has not been derailed.”

But perhaps the best lesson in being cheerful, despite rejection, comes from another columnist for the NY Times. Anne Paik, a former student blogger for a popular NY Times article series, was rejected by 11 of the 15 colleges and universities to which she had applied.

In her blog piece titled: "A Sheaf of Rejections, But Still Fabulous," she says, “Rejections are never easy to swallow, and college rejections are probably among the more difficult ones because of the repercussions they induce. And I’m talking about painful repercussions, the sort that obliterates your sense of self. However, despite my troubled introspection and psychological confusion, I’ve realized that I still believe in myself, and even more strongly now that I’ve been rejected. College rejections will not discourage me from substantiating all my fantastic dreams into reality.”

She goes on to end her article by advising prospective students to never resort to self criticism following a college rejection. She writes: “So to all those (students) out there, who are wondering if there’s something wrong with them, please stop. There’s nothing wrong with you. It simply wasn’t meant to be. Rejection hurts, and it hurts a lot, but it isn’t the end of the world. Get up, dust yourself off, and start figuring out the rest of your life. Keep moving forward, I say.”

The Dreaded Waiting List

Some colleges, mostly in the US, have a special slot called the “waiting list” for those candidates who are neither admitted nor rejected — it’s the equivalent of purgatory when it comes to admissions. The waiting list leaves open the door for students to either get admissions or rejections based on the Uni’s requirements. About 10 per cent of the applications find themselves under this section. In the event that you are rejected, you could ask the Uni to put you on the “waiting list” — to stand a better chance of getting admission.

Start Soul-Searching

Reassess your higher-education plans and ask yourself what it is you are looking for in a college. List your thoughts down in a piece of paper and think hard about your motives, ambitions, ideas and career. There is nothing wrong in changing your mind. A lot of young adults struggle to figure out their career path; so a rejection can be a blessing in disguise that helps you reassess your higher-education plans. Take into account your dreams, hopes, goals and likes when planning to apply to a new college and course. 

Get help

Different people react differently to difficult situations, and so it’s never proper to suggest a standard approach when dealing with rejection. But if you personally feel that talking to your loved ones or friends could help you cope with the situation and give you perspective on life, then it’s advisable to do so. Confiding in someone close to you could help you address any depression you may be harbouring. If the depression is severe, you could even consider taking professional help from a psychologist.

Conclusion

Remember the adage, ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’? The key to dealing with rejection is to find the positives in the situation. You never know, the rejection could spur you on to apply to another Uni that turns out to be a better fit for you. Your second-choice could turn out to be better than the first one. So don’t lose hope. Look into other Unis to apply to, or better yet, come talk to us so we can help you apply to another Uni based on your interests and requirements.

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