Dear downhearted college applicant,
Here at Simplify, we don’t like to use the word “rejected”. Rejection signifies being spurned. A forceful refusal or careless dismissal of your four, hard high school years, filled with sweat, passionately-energized learning, and yes, even maybe some blood and some tears. We hope, instead, that a “no” from the college of your dreams is a respectful denial, with genuine regret that while they would have loved to have you, they were forced to say sorry. Our own kids have been deferred and/or denied as have we (and some of us in all aspects of our lives). So we get it. We know you are hurting. Like your parents, we want to help but want to also be aware of your need to process this on your own so we respectfully suggest some options.
There’s nothing wrong with being crushed by a denial. We urge you to drown your sorrows in marathon I Love Lucy or The Three Stooges episodes plus bags of chips with your favorite furry friend curled on your lap. For the more active among you, we suggest a good, long walk to get your blood flowing, your favorite tunes shutting the sad world out. Or maybe, indulge in a round of basketball with your “fellow-denied”. Some of you might be wait-listed and on tenterhooks so prickly that even Larry, Curly, and Moe or the Marx Brothers are not particularly funny today. It sucks.
Give in. Wallow. Eat something sweet or salty. You deserve this respite.
But tomorrow, or the day after, or next week, pick yourself up, dust off the crumbs, and look up. Look ahead. Your whole future is thrown wide open and a brand new path, one you might not have thought of, lies right in front of you. This is your chance to stare a calculated risk in the face. Take it!
Turn away from blaming yourself (or your loved ones).
You might have raged at your parents. You might have been shaken by the recent news articles about unpredictable admissions. You might have wished that you should have scored higher in your SATs or ACTs. It’s true. Elite colleges are only becoming more and more selective but there are so many colleges, like Colleges That Change Lives, out there that would be happy to have you. We always think of denial as a result of something we or a loved one did and regret that we could have done better. While that might not be untrue, there are also reasons we just cannot avoid. Perhaps your dream school was inundated with applications this year. Or perhaps there was a directive from admissions head honcho to have a very specific class size and make-up. These factors are beyond your control (for a closer look at what some of these admissions factors are, read The Gatekeepers by Jacques Steinberg).
Turn to the schools that want you.
Many of you will have a second or third choice college’s exuberant acceptance and warm welcome to be one of their own. You’ve been courted with open arms. Value that acceptance and consider that these schools might be a better fit for you because they want you and know you will be cherished there. Perhaps your best buddies will not choose to go there or perhaps you worry that your prospects will suffer at a less than perfect (for you) school. But success depends on you. Even the best colleges and professors cannot guarantee that you will flourish unless you work for it. Perfection is elusive. Reality is right here. Grab it and be determined to thrive (for inspiration on not letting a brand name school beguile you, read Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be by Frank Bruni).
Turn over the college applications mindset.
If the thought of choosing any other school is dire anathema, try something else. Take a gap year and travel, or add another year of high school to take interesting classes and apply again the following year. Take community college classes and transfer into a four-year school for sophomore, junior, or senior year. Or take a break from hoop-jumping of every kind and craft a totally alternative path. Create a self study plan that will increase your creative and critical thinking abilities (for an idea of books to read, pick up the quirky but entertaining The Day I Became an Autodidact and the Advice, Adventures, and Acrimonies That Befell Me Thereafter by Kendall Hailey). Start an internship or a small business of your own. Soak in different experiences that transform you from a consumer of information into a “questioner”. Be a doer and thinker and comfort yourself in the fact that one more year of the school of hard knocks is only going to make you a much better, more effective student and world citizen (for more inspiration, turn to Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz).
Be sad but be brave too. Your denial might be the chance to wake up and take a deeper, more meaningful direction. You’ve been walking that one path of hard work and testing on a GPA-fueled life. Now turn the other way and make a choice to take a different path where you call the shots. Accept the hand of a college that wants you there or seize this chance to totally redesign your life. You’ve been given a ticket towards uncertainty. Embrace it. Give it the chance to be the best decision you’ve ever made.
May this May 1st be the day you turn this denial into something good for you. Good luck!