Preparing for College

Regarding Thin Envelopes

The dust has pretty much settled on this year's college admissions season. Of course, there are still some "rolling" admissions schools out there who never seem to establish a hard application deadline, plus there are always those schools who need to fill more spaces in their dorms when they don't accomplish needed enrollment goals. Those schools will begin soliciting bodies after the May 1 enrollment deadline, which is coming up pretty quick. These days, with dwindling family financial resources and colleges with aid packages that aren't what they used to be, times are tough for both families and schools.

But what about those of you who have already seen the final results of your application quest? You likely have a pile of "fat" envelopes (big mail packages welcoming you to the Class 0f 2016 (I still can't get used to seeing years with those high numbers)) and a few "thin" ones that bear the unpleasant news of "rejection." I prefer the term "denial." Personally, I would rather be denied something rather than be rejected from it. "Deny" has less sting, I think.

Today, I'd like to address all those of you high school seniors who have some of those skinny envelopes sent from your most highly desired colleges and universities. You may be feeling that you have been dealt a personal blow to your self-worth and self-esteem. That's only natural. However, you have to take a broader, less-personal view of what an application denial means and what to do next. I've discussed this before here on Admit This! but it bears repeating every year. There's a lot of unnecessary suffering going on among denied seniors right now. If you have been denied and are hurting because of it, let me give you my ongoing advice about how to handle it.

Getting a rejection (denial) letter from a college or university doesn't make you a bad person. Unfortunately, some high school seniors see themselves in a less-than-positive light when they read the bad news from a highly desired institution.

Dealing with rejection is difficult. Most high schoolers tend to take being turned down by a college or university on a personal level. They seem to think that the letter from the admissions office is really saying something like, "You are deficient and we don't want to have anything to do with you." Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that in a lot of cases some denied students could have done as well, if not better, than those who were accepted. This isn't a rationalization or sour grapes. At schools where there is a significantly larger number of applications than seats (schools whose acceptance rate is 50 percent or less), there just isn't room for all the qualified applicants. This fact is borne out by the so-called Wait List. A wait list is a group of "in-betweeners" who haven't been rejected but haven't been admitted. They will be offered admission if the number of enrollments doesn't meet expectations for the incoming freshman class.

One famous dean of admission said that his institution received so many outstanding applications that he didn't have the heart to send rejection letters. He noted that placing these fine young men and women on the wait list was his way of saying, "We should have admitted you, but we didn't have room." Such is the case with many good colleges. Everyone who is good enough to get in isn't always offered admission.

Take a little time to feel disappointed about not getting into your most-desired school(s). It's perfectly natural to feel bad. Don't dwell on it, though, and, by all means, don't develop an obsessive attitude about it. Don't hate that school from this moment on. Don't view successful candidates as elitist snobs. Accept the fact that you didn't make the cut--for whatever reason--and get on with your life.

Embrace those schools that have embraced you. Select the one that best suits your needs and prepare to have a great higher-education experience. Yes, indeed; there is life after denial.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.