With Ivy Day and tons of other college admissions coming out in the past few days, I’ve seen many wonderful stories of successful students’ dreams coming true. They scream, cry, and jump for joy at having seen that little “Congratulations!” (and maybe some animated confetti) on their computer screen. But for every happy cry and amazing story, there are 10 more stories of rejection.
You’ve waited months for this college decision, and you want more than anything to make a life for the next four years there. You fantasize about your dorm room, roommate, classes you’ll take, places you’ll go out, and the friends you’ll make. You won’t accept anything else but, well, an acceptance. Instead of counting the minutes until your decision arrives, you’re counting the seconds. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Until suddenly it’s that time, and you click the “status update” button, praying to every existing god that things will work out for you, and that you’ll do absolutely anything just to get that happy message. But it never shows, and instead you get, “It is with great sorrow that…” and you know that your hopes and dreams have come crashing down in front of you.
Rejection is so difficult for us to understand because oftentimes the decision is never in our hands. When we audition for a play, or try out for a varsity sport, or apply for a college, you never know what’s going to happen, even if you are qualified. There are tons of other factors besides you that go into your consideration for something. And sometimes it’s hard to accept that there was absolutely nothing more you could’ve done. You might be thinking it was volunteering that extra hour, getting an A on that one test, or rereading that essay one more time that would’ve pushed that rejection to an acceptance. But it’s not, and it wouldn’t have. And (this might come as a surprise to you) that’s ok.
You might be thinking that when you eventually attend college or go down whatever walk of life you wish to go down, you’ll get a feeling of emptiness from your life. You feel that everything would’ve been so much better at that one nice college, and that you had to settle for something that you didn’t really want. But you don’t have to live your life this way. Everything happens for a reason, and although you wanted to go to that school more than life itself, the fact that you got rejected means that there is another opportunity out there waiting to get explored. But sitting around and moping about your college rejection won’t let you go open the door when that opportunity knocks. Seeing other people getting accepted shouldn’t make you sad about your rejection, it should motivate you to work even harder at whatever you do so that you can prove to not only the world, but to yourself, that you are worthy of anything that comes your way.
Sometimes, the college admissions process is helpful. Sometimes it’s harmful. Sometimes it isn’t fair, and sometimes those with money get a leg up (I’m looking at YOU, Aunt Becky!). But it isn’t your entire life. Even if that’s what your counselors, teachers, and parents say, it just isn’t. Mark Cuban went to what most people call a “second-rate college” and still made millions, and it wasn’t solely because of the college he went to. He worked hard on his own merit, and knew what he wanted to do, so he did it. He didn’t need to get into Yale or Harvard to be successful, he just needed to awaken the motivation and spirit within his mind to get to where he is now. Being rejected shouldn’t be a sad thought, it should be a thought that motivates you to work the hardest that you have ever worked to get to where you want to be. Let the anger and sadness from the rejection bring you to a new stage in your life, one where your success is determined by you, not by a college admissions officer.
So if you’re feeling sad over an unexpected rejection, think about this. That one college that you never really paid attention to, or just applied to because it was a safety school, might be the dream school for you. Maybe that big financial aid package at another school is going to make your adult life (and bank account) happier. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a beautiful campus and a place to call home for the next years at somewhere that you never expected. And maybe that rejection was a blessing in disguise.