If You Didn’t Get Accepted to Your Dream College

It’s about that time of year when perspective college students around the country will be getting their acceptance, or rejection letters. By now, you probably know that if the envelope is nice and fat, full of pamphlets and the like, then you’re in. However, if it’s a thin little sheet of paper you receive, then you’re either waitlisted, or worse, rejected.

In truth, rejection is not the worst possible thing that could ever happen to you in your young life. With universities the way they are these days, prestigious schools get many, many more applicants than they could ever hope to accept. And as the applicant pools go, students seem to be getting better and better grades, doing more extracurricular activities than ever before, and it is simply becoming more difficult to distinguish one’s self from the pack. So, maybe you’ve just gotten that depressing letter that has the beginning “we regret to inform you,” (You probably think they don’t regret it as much as you do). If so, then read my tale of rejection, and maybe it will put some perspective on the situation.

The Story

I applied to four schools my senior year. I was accepted by two and rejected by two. As it turns out, I ended up attending the back-up school of my back-up school. My dream school was The University of Pennsylvania. Specifically, The Wharton School of Business. I fell in love from the moment I made my first campus visit. It was the school for me. It was where I could be successful, comfortable, and happy. When it came time to apply, I did everything in the book I was supposed to, and then some. I even had my grandfather (who was an alumni) write a letter of recommendation.

I wrote what I thought was the most amazing college essay ever written. It was an incredible opus in which I talked about how much I loved Penn, how much I wanted to be a part of the tradition, and so on. Alas, April came, and I received my tiny envelope. They truly regretted to inform me that I was rejected. It was a tough application class, and I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t even waitlisted. My SAT and ACT scores were in range. My GPA was above average. I held a job throughout High School, played football and volleyball, and was even in plays. I wondered how it could happen to me, and where I went wrong.

Needless to say, I was quite distraught. Then, less than a week later, my backup school, The University of Notre Dame sent me another thin letter. Worst of all, one of my best friends, whom I had a higher GPA than, and almost as high SAT score (with a higher ACT score) got accepted. Was I inadequate? Was I simply someone who had too lofty expectations? A multitude of questions and thoughts of self-doubt flooded my brain for weeks. I was truly depressed, and felt that I had failed. I was too focused on my failure to even be happy for my friend. I was convinced that my life would never amount to anything, because I wasn’t going to be a Penn Quaker, or a Fighting Irish.

With that in mind, I had to choose between Purdue University and The Ohio State University. I decided to become a Buckeye, and, to make a long story short, I’m extremely happy I did so. I’ve had some great learning experiences, and created memories that will last a lifetime. I’ve experienced things that never would have been possible had I attended my first two choices. In fact, my freshman year I had the opportunity to go see my Buckeyes defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. Sure, in a different world I would have been standing on the other sideline, but it sure was sweet to cheer along with the victorious side. After the game, when I was singing the Alma Mater along with the fans, band, and football team, I felt like I was where I belonged all along.

The Moral

Looking back on it, over three years ago, I had the wrong idea about college. The college you go to does not make you who you are. It can certainly help mold you and set you off in the right direction in your adult life, but it doesn’t complete you. Dream schools are great, but they are not the end-all, be-all of colleges. Simply because some report ranks a college high in a certain area doesn’t mean that you are nothing if you don’t attend that specific school.

College is supposed to be a personal journey. College is all about learning and growing. Your dream school can certainly help you do that. However, those back-up schools you might be snubbing could probably be just as successful in helping you achieve your goals.

If you get a rejection letter from a school you had your heart set on, don’t think of it as the end of the world. As lame as it might sound, think of it as a new beginning. In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, it seems that too many people get caught up with rankings, hiring rates, and other numbers that really don’t say much about who they’ll become. Who is more successful, the Harvard graduate who scrapes by with C’s and ends up getting a dead-end job working for some company,

or the state-school graduate who works hard, makes an impact at his or her university, and uses college as a time to grow into a successful adult? It’s all about what you DO in college, not what college you attend. One movie I love that concerns college is Orange County. I don’t want to give away too much if you haven’t seen it, but the idea that your college doesn’t define you, and that you don’t need to go to a certain school to be successful is central to the film’s plot.

Remember, those admissions officers don’t really know you, they only have a glimpse of what you’ve done in high school via your application. They could be missing out on one of the best students to ever walk through their door. Just because some person looking at a piece of paper, trying to determine if you are worthy of admission, decides that you are not, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Also, being rejected from your school of choice doesn’t always have to be the end of the story.

You can always work hard and attempt to transfer, or take a year off and re-apply. Remember, if life closes a door on you, it will usually open a window. The bottom line is, if things didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to, it’s not the end of the world. No letter can make or break you. It’s what you do when confronted with adversity that defines you. So, if you’re reading this, having recently been rejected, you have two options:

1. Feel sorry for yourself, and hold regret that you didn’t work hard enough, and rue the day you tried applying to your target school.

2. Take the rejection as an opportunity and run with it.

After wasting time with 1, I eventually chose 2. Which one will you choose?

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