I Just Got Rejected from All of My Dream Schools. What Do I Do Now?

Dear Student,

We’re really sorry. We know this is probably a painful time for you. And honestly, it’s not fair.

There’s not a whole lot we can say to make you feel better at this time. But we do think there are a few things you should know.

The headline you’re going to read pretty soon (if you haven’t already) will state that this is the most competitive year in college admissions ever. You’ll see that same headline pretty much any year throughout recent history and every year, it’s true.  

You see, colleges aren’t run for your benefit. If fact the admissions process actually has very little to do with you at all. The whole thing is essentially one big marketing experiment, and in a way, you’re a source of revenue. Even though colleges are technically 501c3s, they are businesses with board members (shareholders) to please and endowments (revenue) to increase, and one sure fire way to do both of those things is to become as competitive as possible. They do this, in part, by encouraging as many people to apply as they can to drive down their acceptance rates.

Take Penn, for instance. Their number of applications didn’t increase all that much from last year (44,960 in 2019 up from 44,482 in 2018). That’s highly unusual for a school of that stature and we’re willing to bet that internally, they are upset about that.

This does not negate the hard work and energy you have put forth throughout high school. Your accomplishments are yours to own. You should feel proud of them and they will help you succeed in life.  

The other thing we want you to know, is that while it might not feel like it right now, you’re going to be ok. 

Applying to college is a little bit like dating. At some point in your life, you’re probably going to meet someone you really like who courts you, flirts with you, and gets you excited about the prospect of being together, even though they ultimately flake out or ghost. It’s devastating. But eventually, someone who is actually great and the right one for you comes along, and you realize that the first person was not good for you at all. In fact, they kind of sucked.

20 years ago, it wasn’t like this.

These schools used to be accessible and now, they’re astronomically more difficult to get into. This year, USC’s acceptance rate was 11 percent. It’s not even an Ivy. Dartmouth’s was 8%. Let that sink in. Schools that aren’t Ivy League schools and now as hard as Ivies. Unfortunately, you didn’t have the advantage of being born 20 years ago when colleges weren’t so obsessed with getting their numbers up. And when class sizes were on better pace with demand.

The thing is, they don’t even think about the impact, which is that this process, the cycle of money, ultimately breaks kids (and also, lead parents to do things like bribe admissions counselors)

High school can be hard enough on its own. That’s why we focus on minimizing the negative feelings. We don’t want our students to apply to places where they have no shot. We want them to apply to places they could feasibly go and thrive. It doesn’t feel good to get rejected, and it ultimately helps perpetuate the university-industrial-complex succeed, while hurting kids along the way.  

That’s all to say, don’t take it to heart. It’s worth saying this again: you’re going to be ok. This moment does not define your future. Spielberg was rejected from film school three times and he seems to be doing okay.

Use the rejection as the motivator for the next chapter of your life. Make them sorry they didn’t accept you. This has happened SO many times throughout the course of history. It’s not about this moment. It’s about how you grow and learn from it. So, take the time to feel it, eat some ice cream in your sweatpants and mope around for a few days if you need to. Then, start thinking about how good it’s going to feel to call the school that rejected you out in your Oscar speech, or to meet the love of your life at the school you were really meant to attend, or 20 years from now, to give advice to a kid going through this in your New York Times’ best-selling memoir. And remember… 

It’s not you, it’s them.  




Need some help with your college list? Call us. We are great at helping students match with the perfect schools for them.