dults don’t cry…Or do they? University is widely regarded as a time in a young person’s life to be highly utilized in every way–accepted students must hustle to get into the best clubs, the best dorms, and acquire the best grades. They are “adults,” who are meant to look after themselves. However, what if your prospective university–the utmost tenant of your adulthood–-deems you not worthy of this adulthood milestone? 

Simply consider the following pieces of advice that we’ll cover in this article: 

  • Don't Hide
  • Gain Perspective
  • Sleep on It
  • Or Rise from the Ashes
  • Finally, Forge a New Path

Don’t Hide from College Rejection

A college rejection can shake your self-esteem like nothing else. This is because where you attend university (supposedly) has a large say in where you will end up on the career and property ladder. The further you climb, and the younger you start, the better off you will supposedly be. 

In fact, many students have found a kind of cathartic resolution to their pain through celebrating their rejections. 

A woman in a graduation cap smiles and shrugs. 
If you can’t change your situation, laugh at it instead! 

A quick perusing of any social blogging site–Reddit, Quora, and even some advice columns–will reveal conversations centered solely around the topic of college rejection. If you’ve already stumbled upon this article, chances are you’ve viewed a few of these sites already. While some of these users’ posts can be quite dour in tone, others may offer a personalized, and new perspective on your predicament. 

Beware Commiseration

Think you’ve spent too much time commiserating? Consider this successful professor who published his own CV of failures. While many people spend their time squirreling their rejections away, he decided that it was more important to show young students the truth behind the CV: the path to success is not always paved with acceptance letters. At times, your potential will simply not be recognized by others, or reflected on your CV, for that matter. 


What had you imagined doing once you received that acceptance letter? At the moment, celebrating with friends and family appears to be the standard procedure after being admitted into your dream school. It could also be a pinata, a beach trip, a celebratory sip of champagne. Whatever it is, resolve to still do it. People tend to search for reasons to celebrate, when often enough, the reasons to do so are already there–they just don’t know it yet. 

So, take the time to gloat over your accomplishments. Maybe you received good grades this past semester, or maybe you achieved one of your New Year's Resolutions. Perhaps the most worthy achievement of all…you have completed High School! Four years of squeezing through hallways while fending off bullies and mounting piles of homework is certainly no feat to be sneezed at. Unlike many, you survived! 

Gain Perspective

Many high schools have a method or means of displaying the university your fellow students will be attending next year. Gaze to the left and right of the public list until you come upon a name that appears familiar to you, and see where they’ll be attending. You may notice that many of your fellow students are, in fact, not listed at all. It could be that they are ashamed of the fact that they were also not accepted into their dream college. Or, it could be that they’re not attending university at all (which is totally okay!). Additionally, students who you may have perceived as “going places,” might not be attending the Ivy League schools you’d imagined. 

This is to say that the path to success is not as defined as you might assume. Other, very capable students have “failed” on their way to their dream school. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t the same person they were before: a student filled with promise and ambition. It simply means that said ambition will have to be directed into a different venture than they’d initially thought. 

Woman stands in front of a waterfall, holding a sign that states ‘I’m here, You Not.’ 
It may appear that others are succeeding where you failed, but you cannot let feelings of jealousy cloud your awareness of your own merits. 

Reframe Negative Thoughts 

“She’s so smart,” “he’s so good at sports,” “she’ll get a full scholarship for sure.” If any of these phrases sound a bit too familiar, it could be because you’re prone to putting others on a pedestal. While this may not always be the case–some people are just very good at recognizing merit in others–all of these statements come with the assumption that because they are more, you are less. This is not always so. 

Are you a brilliant clay-artist, a good businessperson, a phenomenal cook? Even if your skills are a bit niche compared to traditional academia, chances are you have a skill that those around you are jealous of. The goal of this exercise is not to perpetuate the idea that jealousy is healthy (whether it’s coming from you or directed at you). Rather, by learning to reframe your thoughts around skill, you may come to the conclusion that what you had initially wanted from your college of choice was not correctly oriented towards your true passion. Perhaps, there is a calling which you might pursue elsewhere, and to greater success. 

Sleep on It

The Benefits of Taking a “T”

‘T’ stands for timeout. The age old game of tag had us as kindergartners making a “T” symbol with our hands and simultaneously yelling “Tee!” when we’d become too tired to continue. The person chasing us, the same person who was “it,” had to respect this, and move on to another target. At times, the pain we feel from college rejection can become so unrelenting, so all-consuming, that the only safe solution (where our mental health is concerned) is to take a knee. 

A lion lounges on a large tree branch. 
Failure at any level can spur you to bounce back better than ever before, but it can also exhaust you like nothing else. 

Meditate, or Cry it Out? 

Some prospective students appreciate a little time to grieve, while others prefer a more stoic approach, one where they can safely assess their feelings from a distance. Whichever method is best for you, here are a few of the merits of each: 


According to Psychology Today, rest can help to improve your creativity, physical performance, and ease of weight maintenance. Rest doesn’t have to mean sleeping, either. In fact, many different activities count towards rest–as long as doing them helps you unwind. Vacation’s can be a form of rest, as can be writing, singing, or listening to music. 


Anyone can relax, over a few episodes of a popular show and a twelve liter bottle of soda. Meanwhile, deep relaxation, the kind that allows us to reevaluate our goals and stresses, eludes us. The path to this kind of relief can be accessed easily online via guided meditation, various apps, or even articles. 

Worried about being too alone with your thoughts? Refer to the additional Psychology Today article to answer all of your burning questions about the meditation process. No matter what you do, always be cognizant of the various factors that interrupt relaxation: excessive phone use, negative media, and toxic relationships. 

Or Rise from the Ashes of Rejection! 

A book is alight with flames. 
If you feel you’re nearly there, but need a little extra push to get that acceptance letter, not to worry. There’s always the possibility of taking a year off to improve your academic profile. 

Battle’s Just Begun 

As comforting as assertions like “it’s not your fault,” or “this isn’t a reflection of your abilities,” can be, those statements are not always entirely true. It may be that, deep down, you know this too, and that’s why your rejection is bothering you so much. At times, the difference between acceptance and rejection is a single grade, club, volunteering gig, or essay. 

While all can agree that obsession over grades and achievement is degrading to mental health, if you know for a fact that you could’ve done more to increase your chances of getting in, you may want to consider taking a gap year. Remember, you can always re-apply in another year. And, if you’ve done something quite astounding in that year, for example, re-took your classes to pull up your grades, gained a prestigious internship, or did amazing volunteer work…You might just be able to up your chances of admittance. 

How to Do This

When considering this approach, ask yourself the following: 

  • What was the weakest point of my application? 
  • How can I improve this? (Rewrite essays, retake courses, add extracurricular) 
  • Can I realistically achieve this, given a gap year? 
  • What else can I do to better myself in the meantime? (take community college courses, gain a helpful certificate, take a job and save money for tuition, apply for scholarships) 

While you can never consider your admittance into a university a done deal, there are plenty of things you can do to increase your chances of receiving that coveted acceptance letter. 

Finally, Forge a New Path 

As is always the case, there are likely many paths forward that you have not yet considered or even conceived of. For example, many universities possess the same area of study that you are after. Additionally, schools abroad may have similar programs, greater financial aid, and a decidedly lax policy on letting in foreign students. 

Close up of a map with several pins in it. 
You can find what you are looking for in other parts of the world, or perhaps even in your own backyard! 

Stick Close to Home– Other Programs For You

Universities tend to specialize in one specific area or another. Some colleges are geared towards technical pursuits, others towards education. You can generally suss out what programs are most important at a school simply by taking an in person or virtual tour, or by asking an attendee which program has the most students enrolled. 

If you were rejected by a distant college that you felt was “perfectly suited to your major,” don’t feel down. Instead, reconsider. State schools in particular, are known for their wide offering of majors and minors. Additionally, their rates are more lax if you are a local resident. 

Take the University of Minnesota for example. The University of Minnesota offers a total of 150 majors! As if this wasn’t enough to draw you in, attending a state school could also give you the chance to learn something new, esoteric even! Again, the University of Minnesota offers courses in Classical Greek, Ojibwe, and Biblical Hebrew. Who wouldn’t leap at the chance to not only study towards their goal career, but also entertain a fascinating hobby as well? (See: Ten Courses that will blow your mind). 

Run away from rejection? 

Many universities worldwide uphold wonderful standards of education, with lesser fees, and greater acceptance rates for foreign applicants. If you’ve found you’ve hit a roadblock applying for programs in the U.S, you’re not alone. Domestic acceptance rates, for some universities, are generally lower than that of international students. This is because foreign students are an excellent source of new revenue for these universities. 

Consider the following statistic: Fifty percent of the University of Cambridge students come from outside of the UK. Most of its subjects rank in the top 10 of the world rankings, as well. However, if the prospect of Cambridge’s admissions Olympics daunt you, perhaps consider the following Uni’s with more lax acceptance rates for their international applicants. 

In conclusion, college rejection is what you make of it 

Whether your college rejection has spurred you to action, stunned you to sleep, or compelled you to run away–don’t fret. The most simple fact of the matter is that you’re in the same boat as many, and, like many before you, will land on your feet just fine no matter what path you choose. 

Sep 13, 2023