You Got Rejected From Your Dream School: Now What?

You Got Rejected From Your Dream School: Now What?

By Brooke Robbins

Rejection is never fun -- particularly when the college you’ve been rejected by has been your dream school for years. But as tired as you probably are of hearing it—and really, who can blame you? -- the truth is, everything does happen for a reason. So, to help you jumpstart your Plan B, we’ve come up with a list of next steps to follow if you’ve been rejected from your top-choice school. Don’t waste another minute to start crafting your new and improved college plan!

1. Breathe

Don’t skip this first step! As heart-wrenching as the process might feel in the moment, now is the time move forward. Why should not getting into one school stop you from having an amazing college experience? Here’s a secret: it can’t. “When considering the criteria that most students have for their dream college, many colleges fit into that ideal category,” says Katherine Clowes, an independent education consultant and founder of March Consulting. So close your eyes and breathe deeply.

“We’ve been taught that there is only one college out there that fits you, and anything else is an ill-fitting glass slipper,” Clowes says. “The truth is there are dozens, if not hundreds, of glass slippers that will provide the perfect fit for that all-important ball. It’s the happily ever after that counts, not the brand of glass slipper you’re wearing.”

But seeing the bright side is much easier said than done. Meditation, which can noticeably reduce feelings of anxiety in as few as 10 minutes, is one trick to try. A simple five-to-10-minute exercise has the potential to leave you feeling noticeably calmer. You can even download an app like Headspace for a guided meditation to help you get your “ohm” on.

If meditation isn’t for you, light some candles or make a cup of tea. Whatever you do, the important thing is to take a few moments to settle your thoughts and breathe before jumping into Plan B.

2. Be honest with your parents and your high school counselor

Tell your parents and your high school counselor as soon as you get your rejection letter. As hard as it may be to talk about it in that moment, your parents are there to help you get through it, and your counselor is there to help you continue your college search. Besides, contrary to what you may be feeling, no university’s rejection is going to change the way your family or your advisers view you and your achievements.

Jolyn Brand, founder of Brand College Consulting, says that a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not qualified. “An important thing to remember is that students are applying for a limited number of spots in a freshmen class, and that the colleges are trying to fill those spots with students that are of diverse backgrounds with different interests and majors, and sometimes even diverse geographically,” she says.

When considering the most highly selective schools, most applicants are not offered admission. “Every year, Harvard rejects students with perfect SAT scores and perfect GPAs,” Brand says. It is not personal, and it doesn’t mean that you have any reason to feel ashamed.

3. Visit the other schools you were accepted to -- and their websites

The next step is remodeling your college list. This is a good opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and take a more thorough look into some of the schools that you may have glossed over the first time around.

“Consider your list of colleges not by rank, but instead by opportunity,” Clowes says. “Each offers something unique, which is why you applied. You’re not going to your second choice—rather, you’re choosing another option in which you can be yourself.”

Start by visiting the schools’ websites. There is a wealth of information available online, so take the time to browse your options, taking note of what each offers not only in terms of academics, but also location, extracurricular activities and social atmosphere.

As you do your research, keep a running list of things you like and don’t like about each school. “What are the pros and cons of each?” Clowes says. “You’ll probably find that the colleges you applied to were the ones you were interested in for some reason in the first place (otherwise, you wouldn’t have taken the time to apply). Do a little research and look at the opportunities for your future growth and career each college offers.”

If time and money allow, revisiting the campuses is the best way to get a sense of a school’s vibe and to decide if you can really see yourself going there. Most schools allow you to pre-register for campus tours and info sessions online, so be sure to check your school’s website for information about visiting.

If you can’t make a college visit happen, video tours are a pretty decent second option and can offer copious information about the school.

“Research and explore what makes that school amazing and compare it to what you’re looking for in your future,” Clowes says. “How does that school serve as a platform for where you want to be in your twenties? Open your mind up here and don’t let it get clouded by that rejection letter.”

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