I recently overheard two students talking about the upcoming March Madness games, and I had a thought: More than referring to basketball, I believe it describes the time of every year when high school seniors begin receiving admission decisions from colleges. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions—Feeling high when getting those acceptance letters and feeling very, very low when getting rejected.
It gives a whole new meaning to the term “March Madness,” doesn’t it?
I’ll never forget how I felt when I received a college rejection letter: I took it very personally; I said my first curse word; I sulked for several days. While that seems silly now, I can still sympathize with my 18-year-old self (and my 18-year-old clients) because that was my first major rejection. And it stung.
Over the years, I’ve taken some time to reflect on that rejection letter as well as that time in my life. Now, as a college consultant, I use that experience to advise my clients if they receive less-than-favorable admission news. Here are some of my tips for dealing with rejection:
- Don’t take it personally. In other words, don’t do what I did. Don’t allow it to define you or your self-worth. A rejection letter does not make you a bad person or a sub-par student. In fact, college admissions officers have explained that some rejected students performed just as well as accepted students, but at schools where the number of applications is significantly larger than the number of seats, there just isn’t enough room for every qualified student. Is that fair? But neither is life, and you’ll discover that very quickly as an adult in the real world. So take a deep breath, keep your chin up, and remember that it’s not the end of the world.
- Take time to reflect. While I just wrote to remember that it’s not the end of the world (and that is true), it’s also very natural to feel badly after receiving a rejection letter. It’s okay to allow yourself time to feel disappointed. However, it’s also important to not dwell on it and develop an obsessive attitude. Rather than allow the news to send you into a tailspin, think about it, feel however you feel, accept it, and then move on.
- Embrace the colleges that have embraced you. If you’ve gotten rejected from your top-choice college, but have been accepted by your second, third and fourth choices… Celebrate! Don’t let that one rejection put a damper on your achievements. Be grateful for acceptance letters and allow yourself to feel happy about a college that accepted you without dwelling on ones that didn’t. After all, the colleges that did accept you were on your list for a reason(s). Remember the reasons and be excited.
While navigating through March Madness, remember this quote by Thomas Sankara: “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness.”
Receiving admissions decisions, choosing a college and starting this new chapter are all important changes. Embrace the madness!