home  >  guides  >  life  >  college rejection

Recovering from a College Rejection

a letter to my college-bound sister


Jiwon Kim || 2.12.2019

Adult Students

Dear little sis,

It feels like yesterday that I was sending in my college applications, so I can’t believe it’s already your turn. Class of 2023 to be. I couldn’t be more proud. We both had our fair share of ups and downs during high school, but then again, who doesn’t? What’s important is that that part is all behind you and you’re about to embark on a new journey in your life..

Now I know you had a dream school, envisioning yourself on its campus over and over again to motivate yourself in the tedious writing and re-writing of your college essays. And I also know that this is the same school you received a rejection letter from a few days ago. I understand exactly how devastating it can be. I once had a dream school of my own, and just like you, I poured my heart and soul into my applications and interviews only to get rejected. I was an absolute wreck and  cried myself to sleep for days!

Nevertheless, you have to wipe away your tears and move on. Of course, at this time, college decisions might seem like the most important pivot in your life and your first big rejection can be disheartening, to say the least. It might be crushing to find out you’re not spending the next four years at that awesome first-choice school. It might also frustrate you that your best efforts fell short of the admissions criteria. You might even conclude that the rejection letter somehow renders all those efforts meaningless. But I’m here to assure you that you’re so much more than your common app essays or your stats. 

And guess what? There is also so much more to college application processes than you might think! They encompass so many variants and they’re processed by admissions officers with all kinds of values and priorities, meaning they are not entirely objective by nature. So don’t let this downturn get to you personally. Take initiative in this special time in life when you get to choose precisely how and where to take the next step.

Here are a few tips for you from yours truly on how to better cope with college rejections and make this time all about YOU, as opposed to the end results.

allow yourself to feel that disappointment

The higher the expectation, the bigger the disappointment. It’s more than natural to feel sad and stung by a rejection, especially if it’s something you’ve spent so much time thinking about and planning for like your dream school. The healthiest way of coping with failure is to acknowledge it—to fully grasp it, feel its blow, and then move on. Embrace your emotions and let it all in (and eventually out, of course) in a way you see fit. But first, make sure you’re disappointed in the right thing—an admissions result that can in no way entirely and accurately reflect your achievements—rather than yourself.

Cry over it!  What better way to deal with misery than to cry it all out? My little trick whenever I’m feeling really down is to crawl under the sheets with my favorite moody playlist and give into my tears. A good cry—followed by a long nap—always soothes me and gives me a chance to feel closure and move on. Journaling can help. Expressing yourself in words can give form to, and thus calm, the whirlwind of emotions clogging up your head. It’s always useful to have visual of your mixed-up thoughts when planning the next step and usually even before unloading them onto other people. When you acknowledge what kinds of feelings you’re dealing with, it’s easier to navigate away from negativity and avoid spiraling into depression.

Counsel with friends, family, and teachers. It can be surprisingly helpful to consult with fellow peers in similar situations. You will realize that rejections are natural and quite ordinary when it comes to college admissions. Don’t forget to discuss your results and feelings with family members as well. Also, don’t hesitate to talk through it with teachers and mentors or seek professional academic counseling.They’ve been through years of college app seasons and probably better understand your place than you would imagine. Talk to them, ask for advice, and discuss future plans and possibilities. Then reflect upon your different discussions on your own as well.

make sure to refocus your energy

The struggle with slumps is real. One setback and it’s all too easy to lose enthusiasm altogether. However, keep in mind that successful people are those who learn to jump back on the productivity train as fast as possible. My tip is to make use of any sort of emotion—especially strong negativity if that’s the case—to re-motivate yourself in times of disappointment. If you’re angry at the rejection, use it. If you’re frustrated at yourself for not doing better at this and that, use that too. Channel that energy into productivity; if you can turn over a debacle and persevere, you’re the real winner here!

Find a new purpose. There are hundreds of thousands of universities out there eager to hear your story. If it’s you’re early admissions school that you’ve been rejected from, look up all the other schools that could potentially be another great match. If you find another campus you fall in love with, it will most definitely boost your spirit!

Look over your application. Another great way to conquer slumps is to go back to the source of failure. Your application might have seemed okay at the time of submitting it, but there’s always room for improvement. Again, consult friends and teachers; receive feedback on previous applications and get to revising. 

don’t forget to refuel yourself

It’s important to know when you’re drained. If you’re feeling tired, demotivated, or even a little dejected, make sure you take the time to get yourself together. I, for one, go on short walks to clear my head when I’m really bummed out and afterward cuddle in a corner of my couch watching Netflix while munching on my favorite chocolate chips. A good day off like that can really be refreshing and hopefully give you the energy to get going again. One pro tip is to never succumb to the temptation of lying in bed all day contemplating life, because that’s the easiest way to spiral deeper into helpless despair. For good measure, here are some other activities that jumpstart productive-moi.

Morning running. There’s no better way to start the day all pumped up than to go on a morning jog. It’s hella challenging to head out to exercise first thing in the morning but believe me, it’s rewarding. This morning routine properly wakes you up and preps both your body and brain for another fruitful day.


Watching motivational clips on YouTube. Whether it be Ted Talks, random people’s success stories, or #GirlBoss videos, YouTube content actually helps me a lot in times of “I don’t wanna do anything.” I just sit back with a cup of hot tea and browse through other people’s lives as they share thoughts and experiences on overcoming hardships, dealing with pressure, and whatnot that’s relevant to what I’m feeling. There’s so much helpful, informative content on YouTube it’d be a shame if we didn’t use it! (Just be mindful of how much time you spend watching videos, because it’s super easy to get sucked into the YouTube black hole!)


So, are you ready to start this new chapter in life? I hope you’re excited because uni is going to be a hell of a ride! I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you, but obviously you’re going to do absolutely amazing.


Much love,

Your big sis