College rejection letter or waitlist blues?

There are, and always have been, many wonderful college opportunities for students.

Last March, Maria Furtado, Executive Director of CTCL, had quite a bit to say about this and on the Turning the Tide initiative—an initiative heavily supported by many of the most selective schools in the country. I am thinking about it again this month because March—for many students—is a tough month.

Alongside excitement, there is often a good amount of disappointment, frustration, anger, and confusion among students and families. Many of these feelings stem from rejections or waitlist responses from our country’s most selective schools, and it’s no wonder with such a laser sharp focus on getting into and attending a top 10, 20, or 30 college or university as defined by US News. But did you know, as Jeffrey Selingo notes in a recent Washington Post article, “There are thousands of colleges in the U.S., and the vast majority of them accept far more applicants than they reject.” There are just SO many other wonderful schools that fly under the radar and not just those on the CTCL list, either. I hope that in the future more students and families will look beyond the schools with the greatest brand recognition and prestige.

In addition to Maria Furtado’s advice to “encourage students to consider other colleges,” I also hope students can take some time to reflect back on their college process and see the positives—personal growth, self-actualization, maybe even becoming a better writer—in light of rejections or other perceived ‘failures’ (namely, a college rejection or waitlist).

Here are some other considerations: making it through high school today is no joke, so I suggest starting there! The students I work with are SO accomplished, every single one of them, and they have a lot to feel proud about each and every day. Sometimes it just takes some honest reflection to see and internalize all of the good that is already in your life. Second, where you go to college does not determine your happiness, your success in life, or set your future path in stone. It is far more about who you are, how hard you work, and how you treat others that will take you far in life. Third, I suggest practicing gratitude during this time, even though it may feel hard. Gratitude is a skill, so you must practice it. Lynn Goldberg at Tiny Buddha has some great tips for getting started:

1. Keep a gratitude journal.

Make gratitude a daily habit. Every day, jot down 10 great things that happened to you or that you are grateful for. Keeping your focus on the positive will really make a difference.

2. Practice present moment awareness.

The habit of being fully present and not wishing for something in the future or the past—but just being grateful for what is—can really shift your perspective. Catch yourself when that moment escapes you, and gently remind yourself to come back.

3. Think bigger than yourself.

Become involved in a cause that is important to you. As you become aware of other people who are less fortunate than you, you will start to feel a deeper appreciation for what you do have.

4. Share the love with your family and friends.

Cultivate an appreciation for others and let them regularly know that you are grateful for them and for what they do for you—whether it be helping around the house or always inviting you out for a fun event. Focusing on the positive will make people want to keep doing it!

5. Replace complaints with gratitude.

When you find yourself focusing on what you believe you’re lacking—I wish my car were nicer, I had more money, or I got into a “better” college—replace it with thoughts of what you are thankful for.

To all the college applicants out there who know where they are headed at the end of the summer, this advice applies to you, too. And to everyone else still waiting to hear, still waiting to decide, or who is going to tough it out on the WL this spring and into summer, stay positive and remember, “Personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a checklist of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications are not your life.” (JK Rowling)

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