One of my friends recently posted on Facebook a picture of a big, fat envelope his daughter received from her first-choice college two weeks ago. He noted that he couldn’t wait to see her face when she first catches sight of the envelope. He, like most college applicants and their parents, know that they don’t need to open the fat envelope to know that it signals acceptance, a Golden Ticket to a future world of studies, parties, and hopefully a financially solvent future. If they are lucky, they get many more fat envelopes stuffed with acceptance letters, enrollment forms, and financial aid offers, giving them a number of options.
But for every acceptance letter opened by a jubilant student, there are plenty of thin envelopes containing rejection letters arriving at homes across the nation. For many students, the pain and disappointment when rejected by one’s first-choice college can be devastating. Students can feel that all their hopes and dreams are worthless-and that all the painstaking work of figuring out finances and logistics just to make sure it is worth applying to the college in the first place was a waste of time.
That is really not the case. The New York Times is currently publishing a series of blogs written by students going through the application phase, where it’s clear that there is a vast array of options and opportunities. Students struggling to handle the emotional and psychological crisis that can erupt when their plans fall through should read these blog entries. They can be very inspiring; for example, Sush Krishnamoorthy in New Delhi, India wrote after considering a college rejection,
“I am not branded by a single rejection. What I’ve gained from my high school years is a profound part of me that is beyond evaluation. Regardless of where I go to college, my life will be as exciting, meaningful and fulfilling as I dream it to be. Because I am anything but ordinary.”
That’s a great example of the spirit and commitment to flexibility that good students use to get ahead. Another tactic students can adopt is to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by online education to rescue their college plans-and maybe even get into their first choice college after all!
Students should take these steps if they receive a rejection letter:
- Call the college and try to find out why you were rejected. This can be a painful process-no one likes to hear about their shortcomings. And you won’t necessarily get any specific answers. But sometimes it can be a source of information that will help you succeed in the future. For example, a few weeks ago I wrote about the helpful information historian Peter Stearns gave me when I was rejected by Carnegie-Mellon, and it gave me a whole new perspective that led to my success.
- Improve your academic skills with online courses. One of the more common reasons students get rejected by a specific college is that their skills don’t match the college’s academic requirements. This is one of the reasons it’s important to try and find out why you were rejected. If you are really determined to get into that college, you should consider taking advantage of the summer or next academic term to take online courses from home. They will help you improve your skills, look good on your re-application, and even possibly fulfill graduation requirements. Make sure that any course you take is accredited and will be accepted by the college you wish to attend.
- Connect with the department in which you want to study. Many colleges look favorably on applicants with specific plans about what they want to study and with whom. Borrow a trick from grad school applicants and begin a correspondence with the professors who teach what you want to study. They may be willing to support your re-application in the future, by writing a reference letter explaining your interest and commitment.
- Enroll in that college’s online courses. This is a logical and good step to take if you get rejected by your first-choice college. Let’s say you want to attend your state university, but did not get in. When you contact the department of your major, as I explained above, make sure you ask what online or in-person courses you can take as a part-time student. This will also help you build connections with the faculty and fulfill some requirements. More importantly, though, it will show the admissions department how committed you are to that specific school. All admissions departments want to admit students who really want to be there.
There are many factors that admissions officers consider when evaluating college applications. Check out the suggestions offered by Princeton University’s Dean of Admission to help craft an effective application or re-application. Whatever you do, don’t give up. There are many ways to achieve your goals!
Have you been rejected by your dream college? Tell us how you handled it here!