‘Tis the season of back to school, and I remember my senior year of high school like it was yesterday. Fun fact – my FIVE YEAR high school reunion is next month. Seriously, where did the time go? While I remember taking in every ounce and detail of the fun of senior year, what really sticks in my mind is the pain of writing, re-writing, and re-re-writing my college app essays, going on college campus tours, and receiving rejection (and acceptance) letters. Today I’m sharing how to deal with college rejection and #thrive.
The very first tour I went on was of Northwestern in Chicago. On that tour was when I realized that THAT was where I needed to end up. Everything about the school just felt very me. I continued onto visit 15 other schools, and found every problem possible – I remember specifically X-ing a school off the list because it was on a HILL. Like what? Fast forward to applications, and I only applied to 8 schools (while most of my peers applied to 15-20). Northwestern was honestly the only one I was actually interested in. You can probably guess where this is going. I didn’t get in.
And I thought that it was a big failure. That I was a big failure. I ended up at the University of San Diego, a school that I wasn’t the least bit excited about. And while I was completely heartbroken, to this day I’m not bitter. So today, I want to share how I dealt with the rejection (or how I wish I had) and why it’s OK if you didn’t get into your dream school.
PS: If you’re wondering why I’m sharing this now instead of December or May when decisions actually come out, it’s because I hope that reading this will reduce that college anxiety. I hope that it will make you re-evaluate your decisions, and be ready in the event of rejection.
Things to remember:
1. It may not have been the right fit
I’d like to think that the university has a better idea of whether or not you’d be a good fit at the school than you do. To be honest there’s only so much a shiny website and hour-long campus tour can tell you. I can 100% guarantee that this isn’t the bitter talking. But just like you’re choosing them, they’re also choosing you. Like I always say – life is too short to want people/places that don’t want you.
After four years at the school that I didn’t want to be at originally, I now look back and realize it was the perfect place for me. It was a small school which meant that I was able to explore my passions and I could really shine and find people to help me along the way. I don’t think I could have said the same for a bigger school.Which leads me into my next point.
2. You can always transfer
Did you know that 1/3 of students transfer at least once during their four years of university? Even though senior year of high school it feels like this cemented life-long commitment that you’re making, in reality, if you don’t like it you can transfer.
3. Do some in depth research on your potential schools
Once I realized that Northwestern was no longer an option, I started doing some in-depth research on what the schools I HAD gotten accepted to had to offer. Some of the biggest selling points of USD for me were the international business program, the ability to take on multiple majors/minors, and the career center. These were things I didn’t really know until I had sat down and done major research.
4. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
Even though I now look at my USD as “lemonade,” at the beginning it absolutely felt like I had been given “lemons.” But here’s the thing – I took advantage of every opportunity offered at my university – philanthropy organizations, professional groups, greek life, residential life – you name it. And it set me up to be successful post college. And I didn’t need a degree from an ivy to get there.
5. Your experience is what you make of it.
I know people that went to ivy schools and aren’t doing anything impressive post-college. I also know people that didn’t go to ivy schools that aren’t doing anything impressive either. Just because you went to a world-renowned school doesn’t give you an automatic path to success. And just because you went to college doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a (good) job post-college. But if you work hard and make the most of your experience you can be successful either way.
6. Not everyone gets access to an education
And lastly… not everyone gets access to an education. As a second generation Italian-American, neither sets of my grandparents went to college. For that reason, they’ve always instilled in me the importance of getting access to the education that they didn’t have. But still to this day there are people in countries where getting an education is a privilege, not a right. Looking at the big picture is a big help in realizing that your problem is more of a “first world problem.”