By Kelsey Damassa
"It'll be OK." "It's not the worst thing that could happen." "It just wasn’t meant to be." While family, friends, and relatives usually speak these words with the best intentions, they aren't always what a high school senior wants to hear, especially after receiving an unwanted rejection letter. No matter the situation, rejection is rough. Who would want to be told "no" after putting in hours of hard work and endless energy? Instead of irrationally getting angry with friends, family and relatives, there are other, more reasonable ways to recover from college rejection. The college most likely isn’t going to change their decision, so it is important for any savvy senior to be able to move on and not fixate on the negative. How might you go about this? Well, there are many ways to effectively recover and you have to find what works the best for you. Here are some suggestions from experienced college students, as well as Dave Berry, senior advisor at College Confidential.
1. Treat It Like A Break-up
Whether it's related to college admissions, a rocky relationship, a job or an internship, rejection is always rejection. It is completely OK to grieve over the rejection, as long as it only lasts a day or two and includes something delicious like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. Oh, and don’t forget to put in some kind of feel-good movie. While chick flicks are always a good fallback, the movie Accepted might just be perfect for any college rejection situation.
Alicia, a freshman at Penn State, shares: "I didn't get into NYU (my top school) and everyone kept trying to console me, but the truth is, not getting into the school you had your heart set on is like going through a rough break-up –- you might need a mourning period. During that period, there should probably be a lot of Nutella and Netflix. It's the first step to the healing process. Allow yourself a little sadness, then realize how amazingly lucky you are to have the opportunity to go to the great colleges you got into!" Treating college rejection like a break-up might be just what you need to get over any spiteful, sad or "down-in-the-dumps" feelings. It is a perfectly healthy way to embrace your sadness short-term, so that you can move on with your life.
2. Feeling Angry? Work It Out
Berry has some really important and wise advice about dealing with rejection: "Don't hate the school that rejected you from this moment on." Your first instinct might be to forever hate the school that picked someone else over you. Try hard to refrain from bitter comments and don't assume that everyone who has a connection to the school is evil or out to get you. If you are truly feeling angry, spiteful, and wanting revenge, the healthy thing to do is to hit up the gym. Get in a good sweat session –- maybe try a kickboxing class to get rid of any excess anger. Fitting in a workout every day until you overcome your grieving period might be just what the rejection doctor ordered.
3. Make Lists
We have all heard of the infamous pro/con list and I am sure that many of you were encouraged to create these lists when you were initially deciding where to apply. While pro/con lists are considered tedious, too much work or even useless by many college-bound students, it is important to realize how effective list-making can be when it comes to making decisions, reducing stress and boosting your self-esteem. If you need to decide where to go after an unexpected rejection letter, draft a pro/con list. If you want to ease any pains that came with rejection from what you thought was your dream school, make a list! Here are some strategic list-making ideas from seniors who faced rejection from their number-one schools:
"Another idea that helped me was to make a list of all the reasons my 'dream school' wasn't really the right school for me. It helps ease the rejection and make you realize that maybe it really is for the best. Another way to do this is to make a list of all the reasons the school you are going to will be a great fit.” – Allison, Boston College '11
"I didn't get into my number one school, and what really helped me get over it was sitting down and writing out what qualities had drawn me to my number-one in the first place. Then, I looked at the schools I did get into, and tried to find similarities/parallels between what they offered and what my number-one offered. When you get down to specifics and start defining the tangible reasons you were drawn to one school, it's easier to see that those qualities exist at other schools too! It helps to remind you why you are going to college in the first place and what really matters to you." – Kali, Ohio State ‘13
4. Talk to a Friend, Family Member, or Guidance Counselor
We have been told throughout our lives how important it is to talk things out and not to keep all of our emotions bottled up inside. Suppressing emotions will most likely lead to more severe emotions and an eventual emotional breakdown. Clearly, we want to do everything humanly possible to avoid this, so find someone you can trust to talk to about your rejection experience. Talk through your feelings with a friend who is going through a similar situation or talk it through with your mom or your dad. A guidance counselor might also be helpful as they can help you analyze your other choices and focus on other future options.
5. Attend Accepted Students' Day at a School that DID Accept You
OK, so you didn't get in to your favorite school. While it might seem like the world is going to end, it won't. Life goes on and so must your college plans. Try to psych yourself up for a school that did accept you. A college specifically decided that they wanted you to be part of their incoming freshman class, so give that school a chance. The best way to feel out the school while at the same time generating some excitement is to attend accepted student's day. Ally, a junior at Northeastern University, shares, "I'd say the best way to get excited about a school you're going to attend -- whether it was your first choice or not -- is to attend accepted student welcome days. It's a great way to see the campus, get information about the academics and extracurriculars at the school and meet potential future classmates. It'll also make you feel better once you get to know people having those new friends to look forward to in the fall."
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