Accepting rejection

What to do when the 12-year odyssey ends with a ‘no’

Being+told+you+didn%E2%80%99t+meet+a+certain+standard+or+expectation+is+a+humbling+and+humanizing+experience+that%2C+as+much+as+it+might+hurt%2C+teaches+us+important+lessons.

Kai Kirkham Macias

Being told you didn’t meet a certain standard or expectation is a humbling and humanizing experience that, as much as it might hurt, teaches us important lessons.

Lucy Marco, co-online editor in chief

After a thorough review of your application for admission to [insert school here], the Committee of Admission has, with regret, made a final decision not to offer you a place in the Class of 2026.

Maybe you were crossing your fingers, really hoping to get into this school. Maybe you’ve been dreaming about attending this school since you were a kindergartener. Or perhaps you took the other tack, repeatedly telling yourself “I’m not going to get in, there is no way I’m getting in,” while somewhere deep in the back of your brain you held out hope that maybe they’d accept you after all.

Whether you want to reply with an email chock-full of cuss words or you want to break something and scream, rejection is universally painful. As seniors in high school with wide-open futures, being rejected from a school you carefully picked to apply to out of over 5,300 choices in the U.S. alone, sucks. And not taking it to heart is a lot to ask; how could you not?

I believe that students end up where they’re supposed to go. ”

— college and career counselor Camille Nix

After working hard in school for years, pouring your heart into your essays and supplementals, preparing for the SAT, and joining all the extracurriculars, a rejection might feel like a slap in the face; however, maybe rejection can be a good thing, maybe the character building is worth all of the pain.

A wise woman once said: “Rejection makes me feel alive.” Being told you didn’t meet a certain standard or expectation is a humbling and humanizing experience that, as much as it might hurt, teaches us important lessons. Could you imagine if you only ever got exactly what you hoped for in your life? Sure, that might sound nice, but realistically, not only would you most likely be a boring and arrogant person, you also wouldn’t appreciate your accomplishments nearly as much. This is what I tell myself.

BEWILDERING WAIT LIST— REJECTION’S SPECIAL PURGATORY

The Office of Admission has carefully reviewed your application and, although we cannot offer you a place in the Class at [insert school here], we are offering you a place on our wait list.

Maybe you’ve received one of these wait list notices. Wait until when? You’re essentially being strung along and you can’t tell whether it’s a victory or a defeat because it’s neither. This feels like being told,“You’re good, but not great!”

A wait list carries with it the idea that in some college admissions conference room somewhere, your application was a mere one or two votes away from making it across the finish line.”

Having been wait-listed myself, I checked in with our fearless college and career counselor, Ms. Camille Nix, to get her read on how likely it is to be accepted after being wait-listed. Is this the college admissions equivalent of a parent’s “We’ll see…” in response to a request for a trip to Disneyland?

“I think you have to be realistic,” Nix said. “Your options are your yes’s and your wait list is your gamble. Rarely do I see kids go to the school they were wait-listed to— I believe that students end up where they’re supposed to go.”

You could even argue that being wait-listed is worse than the clarity and directness of an outright rejection. A wait list carries with it the idea that in some college admissions conference room somewhere, your application was a mere one or two votes away from making it across the finish line. Maybe if you had signed up for just one more semester of ballet classes and run for student government your sophomore year, that would have made the difference. The what-ifs can be excruciating.

IT’S NOT YOU. REALLY

This is why I think it is important for us all to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If you know anyone who has graduated from college, you undoubtedly have examples of people who have gone on to live happy, fulfilling lives while not attending the college-that-shall-not-be-named. In fact, it is highly likely you don’t know what college most people attended, because ultimately, it doesn’t have much to do with what they wind up doing with their lives.

While rejection feels deeply personal, it really isn’t. The college admissions process is quite arbitrary, with many factors coming into play that we mere mortal high school students cannot be privy to. In fact, 2022 is shaping up to be one of the most competitive years for college applications ever, with students who took a gap year during the pandemic throwing their applications in the ring, as well as waived standardized test requirements bringing top schools into reach for a wider variety of students.

You’ll unfortunately just have to make peace with not knowing why you didn’t make the cut and realize that you still have some really excellent options. One day, we’ll look back on this and be able to appreciate the way things turned out and the hard work we put in.