How to Deal With College Rejection Letters: 6 Steps

College rejection letters can hurt. If you get one, stay calm and keep your head up. You have options. If you’ve received a college rejection letter, you should consider writing appeal letter while also celebrating the acceptance letters you do receive. Here’s how you can approach this disappointment.

A big stop sign hanging on a pole.

Why Do Colleges Reject Students?

The reason you received a rejection letter won’t always be clear, but there are a few reasons students can get rejected from a college – even if they seemed to be a perfect fit.

There’s Only So Many Spots

Colleges only have so many desks and dorm rooms available on their campus. Even with online courses, professors can only handle so many students. Students aren’t always going to make the cut. Many students who apply to highly selective students have outstanding applications, too, but the school simply can’t accept them all. Competition is steep at these colleges and universities.

The College’s Acceptance Criteria Weren’t Met

Each school has difference acceptance criteria that may not have been met. Possibilities could be:

  • The student didn’t demonstrate enough interest in the school.
  • The student’s GPA and/or SAT/ACT scores weren’t high enough.
  • The college may have wanted more academic rigor.
  • The extracurriculars, leadership experience, or volunteer work wasn’t quite a match for the college.

Students can also be rejected if they don’t match the values of the school. Inappropriate posts on social media, for example, have gotten more than one student rejected from their college choices.

Application Errors

The college application is the way to stand out among the competition. While some colleges will reach out to students about missing components, not all do. If you forgot to send your high school transcripts, didn’t submit letters of recommendation, or had too many errors on your college essay, you could receive a rejection letter.

How to Deal with College Rejection Letters

A college rejection letter isn’t the end of the world. While you might be upset about it, especially if it was your dream school, you may still have options. And “when one door closes, another opens.” If you look at it this way, the opportunities are endless. But here are some tips to help you potentially turn that rejection letter into an acceptance letter or come to terms with the situation.

1. You Can Write an Appeal Letter

Did you know that a college denial letter may not be the “final word” on the subject? Some students can absolutely write an appeal letter to the college! Some schools, though, don’t offer this option, so research is necessary. Students should look into whether or not appeal letters are accepted, but also the process for submitting the appeal.

Any necessary documents should be sent in immediately by the student, no one else. Although you may want to get your parents or teachers involved, taking this on by yourself and representing yourself will greatly help your case. When you write your letter, be sure to be polite, state the facts, and include personal information about yourself that could have impacted your grades, work, or other aspects of your life. If you’re sharing new information with the college that they were unaware of, it could help change their mind.

The appeal process isn’t a guaranteed in, but you may just get lucky!

2. Know You Aren’t Alone

Many students will be denied admission to at least one of the colleges they applied to. This is especially true for students who applied to highly selective colleges.

Last year, for example, Stanford University had the lowest acceptance rate in the country. Only 3.7% of students were accepted! Many of the students who received rejection letters were qualified, but Stanford (and other schools) simply don’t have the room to accept all of the students who applied.

And colleges reject plenty of people who go on to become famous. Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinema Arts. He ultimately attended California State University Long Beach and went on to create amazing films. Katie Couric was rejected from Smith College, a college her two sisters had attended. She decided to attend the University of Virginia and is now one of the most well-known female journalists in the United States.

3. Remember: It’s Not Personal

You didn’t get a rejection letter from a college because admissions officers didn’t like you.

For some students, they may have not been offered admission because they were not academically ready to do well at the college. At highly selective colleges, only a small percentage of students are accepted while many of the students who apply are academically qualified.

Colleges only have a certain number of seats available for incoming students and most colleges receive many more applications than available seats. This means that admissions committees must consider many other factors while trying to build their “well-rounded” class.

 4. Don’t Dwell on the “What Ifs”

What if you had the chance to improve your GPA? What if you had written your essay on another subject?

These “what ifs” won’t change the admissions decisions, so why dwell on things you cannot change? You are who you are. Don’t change for anyone, including a college. Instead, be yourself, and you will find another college to attend.

5. Celebrate the Acceptance Letters

If you had a solid mix of reach, match, and safety colleges on your list, it’s very unlikely you only received rejection letters. Now is not the time to dwell on the rejection letters, but to celebrate those letters of acceptance. Even if you were denied entry into your dream school, you likely have options that interest you.

Treat yourself! You earned those acceptance letters – it’s time to congratulate yourself and celebrate.

6. Consider Applying Again Next Year

Did you know that some colleges will allow you to apply again even if you were rejected previously? You can attend one of your backup colleges and try reapplying again next year. Make sure to keep working on a strong application though. This means high grades, a strong essay, and powerful letters of recommendation.

What If You Were Rejected From All the Colleges You Applied To?

It’s entirely possible to receive rejection letters from all of your colleges. If you find yourself in this position, you do have options. Here are three suggestions:

1. Attend Community College

You could always go to community colleges instead of universities and take general education classes while building up your academic record. This is also a great way to save money. Later, you can transfer to a four-year university. You never know – you might just get into your dream school after two years at a community college!

2. Take a Gap Year

A gap year is an opportunity to take occasional classes, learn a trade, do volunteer work, travel, or pursue an internship, among other things. During this time, you can reapply to the colleges you wanted to attend if they accept previous applicants or apply to other schools that catch your interest. However, don’t waste this time playing video games or at the beach. It’s important to use this time wisely.

3. Apply to Other Schools

Most students know the January 1st regular decision deadline, but did you know that’s not the official college application deadline for all schools? Many colleges and universities have rolling admissions, which means they accept student applications until classes are full for the following year. You might find some hidden gems in schools that have rolling admission cycles.

Don’t let a rejection letter weigh you down. Instead, think of it as a detour on the way to your goals. It may not be the route you wanted to take, but you can uncover some amazing things about yourself taking a detour and it may prove to be the better direction for you in the end.

If you only received rejection letters, it’s time to plan ahead. College Raptor’s College Match can help you identify schools with rolling admissions that fit your wants and needs. Get started today for free.

One thought on “How to Deal With College Rejection Letters: 6 Steps”

  1. Jen says:

    Thank you!

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