Getting rejected by a college can come as a surprise. Since many students aren’t fully prepared for the news, figuring out how to deal with college rejection isn’t always simple.
Let’s face facts; getting told “no” by a college isn’t an easy thing to hear. Often, it stings badly and can leave your student doubting their capabilities or even their worth.
That’s why it is so important to figure out how to deal with college rejection. While, in an ideal world, it won’t be something your student will have to face, it’s better to be prepared.
With that in mind, here are some tips for dealing with college rejection, including how to appeal a college rejection, if that seems like the right move.
- 1 How to Deal with College Rejection
- 2 How to Appeal a College Rejection
How to Deal with College Rejection
Dealing with college rejection is a lot like grieving. After all, your student has suffered a loss, in a way, or is at a minimum being forced to reimagine their future.
Being told “no” is stressful, and it does hurt. However, it doesn’t mean your student can’t move forward.
Feel the Feelings
One of the first steps any student will need to take when learning how to deal with college rejection is to let themselves feel their emotions. Trying to bottle up their feelings is rarely a good idea, and can actually make it harder to move forward.
While this doesn’t mean they should dwell on the rejection, taking a moment to feel sad, disappointed, or even heartbroken can be healthy. It’s an entirely normal reaction, and shouldn’t be forced away.
During the first few days, your student should take some time to practice some self-care. Being rejected by a college does hurt and can fill them with doubt, so spending a few days focusing on activities they enjoy isn’t a bad idea.
A little indulgence can improve their mood, as long as they don’t overdo it. So, encourage them to spend time with friends, watch their favorite movie, or get a massage. After a couple of days, they may feel better equipped to begin moving forward.
Understand That It Isn’t Personal
While dealing with a college rejection, your student may take the “no” personally. However, it is important to remember the decision isn’t usually personal. College admissions decisions involve a ton of factors, and not all of them are in your student’s control.
For example, your student may have been edged out because a legacy student who has several family members who graduated from the college applied that particular year. There may have been an overwhelming number of applications for your student’s preferred program, making the screening criteria more stringent than usual. Many colleges limit the number of incoming students that can come from a particular city or state, so if a high number of applicants come from one area, many might not get accepted simply because of geography.
In the end, it’s important for your student to remember that just because other people got in and they didn’t, it doesn’t mean they aren’t great. A college rejection doesn’t mean your student is unworthy or somehow flawed. Colleges can only bring in a set number of students each year, and all a rejection means is your student is one of (likely) many who couldn’t be accepted based on the school’s cutoffs or criteria.
Look at the Statistics
If your student was aiming at a top college, taking a look at the acceptance rates for that school may help them feel better about being told “no,” making dealing with a college rejection a little easier.
For example, if your student had their eyes on Princeton or Harvard, knowing that those schools have acceptance rates of 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively, may make the news a bit easier to swallow.
Essentially, this how to deal with college rejection technique involves showing your student they most certainly are not alone. However, it may only be wise to use this approach for rejections from highly competitive schools, such as those with an acceptance rate of less than 33 percent, as it lets your student clearly see that they are part of the majority.
Focus on the Future
Getting a rejection letter from a college means your student needs to re-envision their future, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If your student applied to other schools and was either accepted or hasn’t heard back yet, that’s a place they can focus their energy. There are plenty of amazing schools with a lot to offer, so learning more about those opportunities may help them refocus on what matters; a way to move forward.
Additionally, just because they got a college rejection this year doesn’t mean they can never go to that school. For example, they can begin their college career at one school then apply a year or two down the road and try to become a transfer student. If they didn’t have the strongest college application in the first place, they could also spend a year boosting what they have to offer.
For example, they could look for an internship to make them a better applicant or sign up for some extracurricular activities to help them stand out when they apply next time. They could even consider taking a gap year before trying to get into their top school again.
Part of dealing with college rejection is learning to look to the future again. When your student sees that it isn’t the end of the world, they will bounce back.
Get Professional Help
If your student is genuinely reeling after learning they were not accepted by their preferred college, getting professional help may be wise. This is especially true if your student begins experiencing strong negative feelings about their worth, has a shift in their personality that could signal mental distress (such as signs of depression or anxiety) or begins displaying signs they might need more support than their friends or family can provide.
Ultimately, when you need to find an answer to the how to deal with college rejection question, helping your student find a suitable mental health professional might be a necessity if their mental or emotional state is worrisome. It is always best to err on the side of caution if you are in doubt and reach out to a doctor if you fear your student is struggling mentally or emotionally.
How to Appeal a College Rejection
While this isn’t something most people would recommend, it is possible to appeal college rejection decisions. Essentially, your student will have to show the college that they should have given them a chance and ask them to reconsider.
Now, this doesn’t mean your student should appeal a college rejection just because they don’t like that they were told “no.” They need to have an excellent reason as to why the school should reconsider.
Usually, a student should only challenge the college rejection if they have a new and substantial piece of information to add to their application that the school would consider valuable or if there was a significant error or issue with their original application.
For example, if your student received a major award or had a relevant new achievement, it could be worth trying. Similarly, if their SAT or ACT score or GPA was reportedly incorrectly, there was a mistake on their transcript or another kind of technical issue, appealing might be worth the effort.
Not all schools allow applicants to appeal, so this might not be an option depending on the college. Additionally, even if the school allows them, they don’t have to reexamine your student’s application or change their mind. It is entirely in their hands, period.
How to Write an Appeal Letter for College Rejection
If your student is going to appeal, the first step is to review the college’s appeals process. If they allow decisions to be challenged, there will be a formal approach that must be followed to the letter. If your student wants their appeal taken seriously, they need to research the procedure.
Your student also needs to handle the appeal themselves. Parents or teachers writing in on behalf of a student isn’t going to impress the admissions board, so your student should create their own appeal letter for a college rejection.
Next, they need to gather relevant facts and evidence. If there was a technical error on the application, your student needs copies of the documents showing their test score, GPA or transcript was inaccurate. As they craft their appeal letter, they need to speak to those points quickly.
If your student has new information to add, they also need to be clear and concise when presenting their evidence. Facts – not opinions or emotional pleas – are more likely to sway an admissions panel.
Finally, your student should never accuse the admissions panel of making a mistake unless there is proof they are responsible for a technical error. Further, coming off as bitter isn’t going to win your student any fans, and any sense of entitlement may similarly harm your student’s chances of securing a spot at the school.
Once the letter is complete, it and any supporting documentation need to be sent to the school in accordance with their appeals process. At that point, there is little to do but wait.
What to Expect After You Appeal a College Rejection
The only thing your student should expect after completing the college rejection appeal process is the procedures will be followed. Otherwise, it is best to expect absolutely nothing more.
Even if the school reviews the application and would be open to your student joining them for the next school year, that doesn’t mean it can happen. If the class size is already maxed, there may be nothing the college can do, even if they wanted to, as most won’t suddenly tell a student with an acceptance letter in-hand they are out so someone else can take their place.
If the appeal turns out favorably, your student’s experience is incredibly rare. One estimate suggests that only 1 to 2 percent are actually successful, and that’s an overall average and not a sign that 1 to 2 percent of those submitted to each school results in overturned decisions. That’s why it is better to look to new options for the future than bank on an appeal coming through.
However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. Just make sure your student also moves forward with a back-up plan, ensuring they can keep making progress regardless of the final decision.