Preparing for College

Thin-Envelope Depression

You've waited months for an answer, and now it's here . . . in a skinny envelope. It's not the answer you wanted.

Getting a rejection 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 their highly desired institution.

Dealing with rejection is difficult. Most high schoolers take rejection on a personal level. They seem to think that the letter from the admission 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 often some rejected students could have done as well as accepted students. This isn't a rationalization or sour grapes. At schools where there is a significantly larger number of applications than seats (schools whose acceptance rates are 50 percent or less), there just isn't room for all the qualified applicants. That's why there is the so-called wait list. A wait list is a group of "in-betweeners," not accepted but not rejected. They gain admission only 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 waitlist was his way of saying, "We should have admitted you, but we didn't have room." This is the case with many good colleges. Every qualified applicant isn't admitted.

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 don't develop an obsessive attitude about it. Don't hate that school forever. 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, there is life after rejection.

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