My First Rejection Letter

I remember my first letter of rejection. It came long after all of my early action schools had been settled. I’d only applied to a few and had gotten some acceptances and some deferrals, but nothing as devastating as the first artifact of my college process that I was able to boil down into a one-word summary: “No.” I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach, the far-away chorus of canceled futures grazing my ears. For a moment, I felt removed from all the successes I had already experienced in my college process, all the triumphs of a student career’s worth of hard work. At that moment I was “not a good fit.” I was fit to be pitied, in fact. I was without a doubt one of the most incapable applicants that the school’s admissions officers had ever had the displeasure of reviewing.

Positive Reflection

Luckily, however, this panicked moment passed. These reactions were a product of my overly-active, anxious mind. Even luckier is that I had a stellar support system that helped me cope with my feelings of rejection and turn them into positive reflection. They showed me that the process of coping with letters of rejection can indeed be a growing experience. Even if, at first, these kinds of letters are bound to strike some dark and powerful feelings into our hearts.

A Guide for Coping with Letters of Rejection

In order to synthesize my thoughts from this experience and the subsequent reflections it inspired, I’ve created a little guide. It is split into two parts – “Self Care” and “Building Perspective” – and each part is meant to serve a distinct purpose. “Self Care” will help applicants overcome the initial disappointment of receiving their rejection letter(s) by allowing them to escape the stress of their school year and build positive habits. “Building Perspective,” on the other hand, is meant to inspire reflection about the college application process overall and situate the idea that letters of rejection, rather than being malicious scourges sent only to punish us, are actually natural parts of a healthy application ecosystem that is meant to help us find the right home. Without further ado, then, here is Moxie’s Two-Part Guide to Coping with Letters of Rejection: 

Self Care

Spend some time away from your phone and computer. Although at times staying connected to technology can feel comforting, studies have shown that getting too absorbed in social media, especially after experiencing rejection, will oftentimes compound one’s insecurities. For this reason, it is best to put your phone and laptop in a drawer and go for a hike after receiving a rejection letter. Get outside. Play a game. Drink some tea. Hug your family. Make a concerted effort to keep your eyes off of your screens. You’ll feel a lot better for it. 

Meet up with friends. Being with those we love and respect will make us feel, in turn, a lot more loved and respected. For this reason, it is important to see friends after receiving a rejection letter. Friends will help us have fun and realize that life is so much more than the sum of an application’s parts. Perhaps most importantly, friends help remind us who we are. 

Be present while doing something that you love. Not only will this practice allow you to get your mind away from negative thoughts regarding rejection, but it will (hopefully) also help remind you why you want to pursue training at a university in the first place. Perhaps that major in Composition & Music and/or your Certificate in Physical Therapy wouldn’t have been as optimized for you at the place from which you have been rejected. Look on the bright side and, while doing so, reframe your rejection blues into acceptance excitement. Those other schools to which you’ve been accepted have just the programs you’re looking for! 

Celebrate the positives. There is so much to be thankful for in your life. Use this moment as an opportunity to express gratitude and optimize your aspirations. Above all, make sure to keep things simple and positive. 

Building Perspective on Letters of Rejection

Think about the letter of rejection as an empathetic suggestion rather than a stipulation that prevents you from doing something. This exercise to reframe my negative thoughts was a revelation. Suddenly, my rejection letter wasn’t a vestige of some stuck-up admissions officer’s pretentious misgivings. Instead, it was a gentle recommendation from a trusted advisor who has always had my best intentions at heart that their school might not be the best fit for a student like me. This line of thought led me to the conclusion that the idea of a rejection letter should be reframed into a sort of letter of recommendation that allows us to inch one step closer to finding the right home. This nuanced definition shows just how difficult the job of an admissions officer can be, and, with that in mind, we should be grateful to those who take on this responsibility.

Assume best intentions.

Expanding upon our previous point here, admissions officers want what’s best for us. While I know that is hard to believe at times, especially the first moment after you’ve cracked into that fresh rejection letter, it’s the truth. Assume best intentions if you can, and, while you’re at it, put yourself in their shoes. That’s a pretty tough job. Live your life with forgiveness and love. Not only in this scenario, but in all difficult circumstances that are thrown your way. You’ll discover that, just at the moment you’re not expecting it, the love that you have been so dutiful in giving out will come back to you in a beautiful way! 

Use Letters of Rejection as Opportunities to Grow

If you live your life as a fellow rejectee according to this guide, you will find growth and joy. And isn’t that what college is all about?