Is There Really Beauty in Rejection?

(On Not Getting In)

It’s March, and the college acceptance “waiting game” is officially in full swing. Notifications of waitlists, deferrals, acceptances, and rejections are as plentiful as the pollen here in Atlanta, and students across the country are simultaneously celebrating and crying as they hear from their dream schools. After four years of studying, volunteering, achieving, interning, do-gooding, and striving to be the very best versions of themselves in order to impress college admissions officers, students will receive notifications that will – and understandably so – electrify or ruin a day, weekend, or even month. “Look on the bright side”, counselors and parents suggest, but as anyone who has been rejected by an employer, school, potential suitor, or otherwise well knows, finding the “silver lining” can be nearly impossible when one truly feels that he or she has done everything in his or her power to earn acceptance.

On March 13, 2015, New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni got right to the point:

HERE we go again. At Harvard, Emory, Bucknell and other schools around the country, there have been record numbers of applicants yearning for an elite degree. They’ll get word in the next few weeks. Most will be turned down.

And with 2015 Regular Decision acceptance rates like Vanderbilt’s 9.5% and Duke’s 9.4%, it’s hard to argue with Bruni’s harsh, yet realistic, assertion. Yesterday, Duke University admitted 2,650 students into its Class of 2019 – which doesn’t sound all that bad until you consider the fact that Duke received 28,000 applications this year. Like Bruni said, most applicants were turned down.

Over in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University admitted just 2,648 Regular Decision applicants into its class of future Commodores, 72% of which were founders/presidents/captains/vice presidents/secretary-treasurers of a club or group (excluding sports teams). Vandy’s Class of 2019 also has a middle 50% ACT range of 33 to 35, and 96% of admitted students were in the top 10 percent of their graduating class.

The bottom line? College admissions – regardless of tier – is über-competitive, and admissions officers are tasked with sorting through thousands upon thousands of applications from overqualified students who want nothing more than a bright future. Perfect standardized test scores are no longer a rarity, and high schoolers are taking more AP and advanced-level classes than ever before.

At Within Reach, we do our best to manage expectations, but, at the end of the day, disappointment is inevitable – especially when you’ve worked as hard as our students do. Instead of writing a laundry list of reasons why we strongly believe that there is, indeed, beauty and – dare we say it – a silver lining in being rejected from a college or university, we’d like to encourage all of our readers to click on this link and read Frank Bruni’s article entitled “How To Survive The College Admissions Madness”. Bruni shares the stories of two successful individuals – and recent college grads at that – who were rejected from many of their first-, second-, and third- choice schools. The prose is exquisite, the content is inspiring, and Bruni reminds students that (and we borrow from his recently published book’s title):

Where you go is not who you’ll be.

To all of our Within Reach students who have received positive admissions decisions: CONGRATULATIONS! We applaud your efforts and are so proud of you.

If you are, however, one of the many who has been waitlisted, deferred, or rejected, we sincerely trust that you will end up at the school that is right for you. Through hard work and a little (okay, a lot of) grit, you can and will be successful – wherever it is that you decide to call home for the next four years!



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