When the College You Like, Doesn’t Like You Back

Rejection sucks



One of my TWO rejection letters from Cal Poly SLO.

Heather Gammon, Editor-in-Chief


This is the word everyone hates to hear. And this is the word that graduating seniors at Yorba Linda High School seem to be hearing the most. And as UC schools largely reduce their accepted rates, California seniors are left with the bitter taste of rejection in their mouths.


As a member of the YLHS graduating class of 2016, I am well experienced in the realm of collegiate rejection. 

But rejection comes in different forms―let’s go through those forms & discuss how to deal with it.

Outright Rejection

This is probably the kind you immediately envision when I say the word “rejection;” this is the kind that hurts the most.

You open a letter or email with high hopes, only to have those bits of hope dashed to pieces, like delicate china clumsily dropped and shattered.

These rejection letters usually go like this: “Due to the extremely limited number of openings available in all programs, we regret that we are unable to offer you admission for the Fall Quarter.”

There’s nothing personal about these letter, nothing to soften the blow. Just the cold hard fact of denial.

And then you realize you have to tell people. Telling others almost makes it worse. In some small, twisted way, you are admitting to failing, either them, or yourself. It’s hard to do that. It’s hard to get the words out, hard to form the word, “rejected” with your mouth.

People react very differently to this kind of letter. A common visceral reaction to rejection is that sinking nauseous feeling you get in your stomach. Still, others go into a sort of shock and refuse to acknowledge they’ve been denied. Even telling others won’t help the truth sink to those in denial. And other people fall on the spectrum of sadness, ranging from simply being sad to being thoroughly devastated.

Rachael Ehlen (12) attests to this, “I thought I was a shoe-in at UCLA, so it came as a shock to be rejected. I felt like there was something wrong with me. Logically, I knew it was because of my major being impacted, but it felt personal.” Taking a deep breath, she continued, “It was like they decided that I wasn’t good enough for them (with a 4.7 GPA) and I didn’t work hard enough to go there.”

Clearly, rejection can lead people to unduly doubt themselves. But a good way to get through this is to realize that what is done is done. You can’t alter the past—only the present and the future.

In all likelihood, you worked plenty hard in high school. Being rejected feels terrible, but in the end, it’s that college’s loss. And don’t forget, the best form of revenge is living well. So, go to school somewhere else, where people will appreciate you. Forget about that one college; it’s irrelevant now.

But still, some find it hard to forget. Rey Lejano (Economics teacher) has his own story to tell: He got rejected from his top choice―Stanford. And so he “framed his rejection letter” in order to motivate himself. Despite going on to Brown University (an Ivy League school with an academic caliber at least equal to that of Stanford), he still has that rejection letter to this day.

Rejection’s a tough nut to crack. It’s best to rely on friends and family for support. Just try not to let your mind run wild with What-ifs. 

My own personal experience with outright rejection has been painful. I speak from experience here, having been rejected, not just once, but twice from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Apparently they thought it necessary to send me two rejection emails in a row. Talk about a sucker punch. It truly hurt me where it hurts the most—my ego. But I said “screw you” and moved on. I’m on to bigger and better things now (let’s hope). I have other options and I intend to succeed wherever I end up.

That about covers Outright Rejection, so let’s move on to Wait Listed Rejection.

Wait listed Rejection

This is a kind of purgatory rejection. While you’re not relegated to the fiery hell of outright rejection, it isn’t exactly paradise with palm trees. Rather, you’re stuck in the uncertain state of Will-they-ever-let-me-in?

If you do get Wait listed:

  • Chin up! It means that you were a highly qualified candidate. Other people got completely left in the cold—at least you got a blanket!
  • Write a letter to the admission office indicating your genuine interest. This university has already decided that you have the academic ability necessary for success. So now is the time to mention any additional nonacademic factors that might help your case — any new achievements. Emphasize your strong desire to attend the college, and make sure you’re specific. Don’t just say, “This college has a unparalleled reputation for strong academics…” That’s obviously why you applied—be original and say something specific. Don’t leave any cards on the table; if you’d 100% go if admitted, TELL THEM THAT! Just be sure. And if you don’t want to go there, out of courtesy to others, remove yourself from the wait list. It’s not worth it if it’s not your top choice. 

Anyway, you should feel relatively good about getting wait listed. Admittedly, it does suck because it means you’re stuck in a state of limbo. You don’t want your bruised hopes to be brutally bludgeoned once moreyet, you can’t help but hoping.

A friend of mine was wait listed at her top choice, UCI, and asserts, “I had such a mixed reaction. On one hand, I was so happy I wasn’t rejected, but on the other, I was so sad because I wasn’t admitted. It’s weird, but I felt grateful to be wait listed even though it’s a pathway to rejection.”

My advice? After you send off your letter indicating genuine interest, focus on the real choices: the places that have sent acceptance letters. While you never know, you still need to have a school lined up to attend in the fall in case you don’t get off the wait list.

So Mustangs, rejection is disheartening; but don’t worry, you make your collegiate experience great. It’s all about your attitude. And just a little reminder: A college acceptance or rejection does not define your self worth.