Updated: Apr 29
by Jacob Connell
March and April of 2018 were the toughest months of my high school career in regard to my self-confidence. Thirteen years of schooling, hundreds of hours of lost sleep, and a dozen college tours resulted not in a moment of elation, but in weeks of disappointment. I applied to six schools. Four of them were considered “reach” schools, one was a “safe” school, and one was an “extra-safe” school. I got rejected from all of my “reach” schools.
Honestly, I was shaken. When I was applying to these schools, I thought that even with super low acceptance rates, I was qualified to be at those schools and that surely, I would get in to at least one. After I received my fourth rejection letter, I began to question if I really was as smart as I thought and if I had been stupid for even trying. My self-confidence plummeted, and it took time and a conscious effort to build it back up. Based on my experience, below I explain some helpful things to keep in mind if you end up receiving an unwelcome rejection letter.
Acknowledge your feelings.
When I got rejected, my outward reaction was indifference. I tried to play it off as though I didn’t care deeply about getting into these schools, and so why would getting rejected hurt me? This façade hampered my ability to process my emotions. Being honest about how you feel about the rejection is the first step to overcoming it.
Be kind to yourself.
Don’t be too hard on yourself! There will inevitably be nights where you get down on yourself (I especially remember feeling angry at myself for putting so much belief in myself). These thoughts are normal but aren’t helpful. I like to try to talk to myself as though I was talking to a friend. For instance, I would never say to a friend in a similar situation, “You are stupid for thinking you could get in there.” If you frame conversations in your head as though you were comforting a friend, your thoughts will be more positive, kind, and comforting.
Get excited about the schools that did accepted you.
Even if they weren’t your top choice, you applied to the schools that accepted you for a reason! Reminding yourself of the challenging programs, beautiful campuses, and phenomenal people at your second, third, or fifth choice school is not only fun, but it serves as important proof that you can prosper no matter where you end up.
Talk to your friends.
Although it may feel sometimes that you are the only person who didn’t get in where they wanted, I promise you that plenty of other people are in the same boat as you. Although family members are great, there is a difference between the support family can offer and the support friends can offer. Despite the possible sense of embarrassment over getting rejected, I cannot overemphasize the importance of utilizing your friends for support. Venting your frustrations with friends in a similar position as you can be incredibly cathartic, and it provides both of you with a support system from someone who knows exactly what you need.
At the end of the day, the entire college application process is somewhat of a crapshoot at the highest levels. I am sure that more than 6.7% of applicants to Yale are qualified, but Yale cannot accept 5,000 freshmen. Where you go to school matters to an extent, of course, but it doesn’t need to define who you are. What will define you is what you study, how hard you work, what organizations you join, and the people with whom who choose to surround yourself.
Jacob Connell is very happily a freshman at George Washington University in Washington, DC.