To Those Who Were Rejected

To Those Who Were Rejected

March has come to a close, and with it has come a bulk of college decision letters. While many will undoubtedly be celebrating, many will also undoubtedly be angry and disappointed with the news they have received.

To those who belong to the latter group, I say: I’m sorry. I get it. I feel you.

You scoff. Perhaps you look at my byline and (rightly) conclude that I am a Harvard student. By most people’s definition, I won the college admissions game show. What makes me qualified to offer advice and condolences to students who are struggling with the news they’ve received this week?

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Harvard students get rejected too.

A lot.

Some friends of mine here have remarked, both seriously and jokingly, that learning how to be rejected is one of the most shocking and most valuable things they have gained at Harvard.

I know right now, it feels like your entire life hinges on what college you will go to. I was also once a high school senior (cue the walking stick), and I remember the constant preparation for applications and unending buzz about colleges coming from every corner of your life.

In that constant chatter, it might be hard to remember that college is just one of the many times in your life where some doors will be close for you and some doors will open. Right now, college might feel like the be-all and end-all, but as a college student, I can tell you it really isn’t.

In fact, as someone much wiser than me once told me, college is only two things: an experience and a series of opportunities that you pass on, apply for, get rejected from, and take advantage of.

This will be true no matter what college you end up attending.

There’s not much I can do to help you with your pain. Rejection sucks. College rejections especially so.

You’re allowed to cry about the opportunity lost.

Call your friends, break out the ice cream, daydream about what that alternate life might’ve been like, read a couple more of letters like this (I’ve done it. I recommend this one.).

Then, pack it away as best you can.

Try to keep in mind that when college itself rolls around, you’ll want to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. Chances are good that you’ll be presented with so much that is dizzyingly new that the scar will fade all by itself.

Go out and celebrate your success.

Yes. Celebrate.

Because rejection never has and never will equal lack of success, now or in the future.

National dropout rates are about 7%. Of those who graduate high school, about 20% do not attend college. Yet in May, you will be walking across the stage and towards college.

Add to these facts your own high school achievements, your triumphs over academic and personal difficulties in the twelve years you’ve been in school, and know this: Regardless of whatever rejections you have received or will receive, you are a success story.

And also, if it makes you feel better (it does for me)—Harvard students get rejected too.

—Staff writer Quynh-Nhu Le can be reached at

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