What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Dealing With Rejection From Your Top College Choice

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Soon, high school seniors all around the country will be awaiting the arrival of college admissions decisions. While the method has changed from a paper envelope arriving in the mail to electronic delivery straight to your mobile device, one thing that hasn’t changed is the emotion of that moment. For some lucky students, an acceptance results in a wave of euphoria and sheer joy. For those less lucky, a rejection can trigger feelings of sorrow, grief, and even depression.


If you have your heart set on a singular dream school that you don’t ultimately get into, these feelings can be even more intense. You might feel overwhelmed. You might be tempted to crawl into bed and stay there. You may even worry that you’ll never achieve your other dreams either. Rest assured, though, that getting rejected from your top choice isn’t the end of the world. In fact, the majority of students who apply to selective colleges don’t actually get in.


In this post, we’ll discuss how you can deal with rejection from a top choice college and how to redirect your energy towards moving forward in a positive, productive way. To learn our top tips about coping with rejection from your top choice college, read on.



1. It’s Okay to Feel Heartbroken

For some students, college applications represent the culmination of many years of hard work. If you don’t get into your top school, you might feel like all of your hard work was for naught, and you may legitimately feel heartbroken. That’s okay; it’s a completely normal reaction to falling short of a goal you’ve work so hard towards.


While it’s natural to feel sorrow and the need to grieve, you can’t spend the remainder of your senior year in your bed. It may be helpful to set a self-imposed time constraint on the active grieving process. Allow yourself a few days to really indulge in self-care. Watch some movies, take a hot shower, and get takeout from your favorite restaurant. When a few days has passed, though, you’ll need to resolve to move forward. You might still feel sad, but it’s time to start channeling those emotions into something productive. At the end of your self-care days, get back up and prepare to take on the world again.



2. Don’t Take It Personally

You might think that your college admissions decisions are a direct indicator of your worth as a person or as a student. It’s important to remember that this is definitely not the case. College admissions decisions are based on so many factors that you can’t control. If you did your best to control the ones you could, then you need to know that there were other factors at play.


Maybe this was the year that the Division 1 Football team lost four starting players and one of those replacements edged you out of a seat. Perhaps 30 students from your town decided to apply to the same school and only one could be accepted. Maybe you were up against a fourth-generation legacy whose parents, grandparents, and great aunt all donate heavily each year.


You never know what other factors are at play in college admissions, so taking a rejection personally is never a good idea.

3. Your Top Choice College May Not Be The Best School For You

While it might seem like the most perfect college you could imagine, no college that doesn’t recognize what an amazing candidate you are is going to be the best fit for you. There are hundreds of amazing colleges out there, and odds are high that you will be able to succeed elsewhere if you set yourself to attending one that’s the best fit for you personally.


Start by identifying what it was about your dream school that made it so alluring. Was it the geographic locale, a specific academic program, or another aspect altogether? If you can pinpoint a few of the most desirable qualities, you can bet you’ll be able to find those same qualities at other schools that would be happy to have you as a student.


Redirect your focus to the schools that you did get in to. Join social media groups for accepted students. Reach out to current students or recent graduates. Network to learn more about each school and get a better feel for it. Visit campus again if you have a chance. The more you know about it, the better prepared you’ll be to make an informed decision about where you do go.



4. Ask Yourself What You’re Going to Make of This Opportunity

Instead of thinking of this as a door closing, think of it as one that has opened. You have an opportunity in front of you to start fresh. What are you going to do with this opportunity?


Shift your thinking to view this as an amazing chance to attend a college where you’re truly valued. If a college doesn’t want you, you’re probably better off elsewhere anyway. Some day, your alma mater will not matter nearly as much as what you made of your college experience. Will you be a dedicated student and a committed member of the community or will you begrudgingly go through your years there wishing you were someplace else? Only you can make this decision.  



5. Your College Choice Isn’t Binding

Finally, remember that you aren’t required to attend any single school for four years. While you definitely shouldn’t go into a college with the attitude that you can just transfer if something doesn’t go your way, it is important to keep perspective that you aren’t stuck someplace if it ends up being a bad fit. The best you can do is give it your best shot and then, if it doesn’t work out, consider transferring someplace else that will.


If you’ve been rejected from your top choice college, it’s only natural to feel a wide array of emotions that may range from grief to anger to self-doubt. There is no right way to feel when you get the news that you’ve been rejected, but there is a right way to recover. Reframing your thinking to recognize the opportunity before you and to capitalize on the chances that you do have will help you to land gracefully.


Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.