Each spring, high school seniors around the country receive admission notifications from the colleges they applied to.

It’s an experience that’s exciting yet stressful, since some of those letters and emails may contain rejections. Hearing no is certainly disappointing, but it’s not the end of your academic journey. Not getting into the schools that you really want to attend may be discouraging, but don’t forget that you still have options available to keep you on track to pursue your future goals.

Rejection Is Part of the Process

Remember that today’s college application process is highly competitive and more often than not, you will be rebuffed by at least one of your top picks. Don’t let this upset you too much, and continue to remain confident in your accomplishments.

College admissions offices work hard to find students they feel are the best fit for their programs, and for every spot there are hundreds to thousands of applicants to consider. Recognize that rejection is a necessary part of the process. Stay positive and focus your energy on choosing the best possible school for you among your acceptances.

If You’re Rejected by Your Top Choice

It’s okay to be upset, but don’t allow the rejection to derail your academic goals. As much as you wanted to attend a particular school, you are likely to find another option that offers what you’re looking for.

You’ll need to evaluate the positives that initially drew you to your top choice to determine your course of action. It may help to make a list of the concrete factors that made that school special to you. Note the campus itself, the areas of study you are interested in and the classes you want to take. You may find that most of what is really important to you can be found at other schools too.

Reevaluate and compare your second and third choice schools. If possible, take the time to visit the schools again and talk to current students and alumni. Be open to the possibility that one of these other institutions could be a better fit, and provide the education and college experience you want.

Although this is uncommon, you may be able to appeal the decision if the school allows. Before starting that process, take the time to get over the initial rejection and then research the school policies on an appeal and consult your school counselor.

If You’re Rejected by Every School

Not getting into any schools may seem like the worst thing that could happen, but it’s not the end of your college dreams. There are still actions you can immediately take.

If you are committed to attending a four-year institution, research schools that have flexible admissions policies and accept rolling or mid-year admissions. Then, take the time to evaluate what you may have overlooked during your first round of applications to determine how you can improve your approach the second time.

If you are currently waitlisted and still committed to attending that particular college, it’s worth staying in touch with the school’s admissions office. Keep them up to date with any improvements in your grades, honors you receive or accomplishments that could help improve your chance of an acceptance.

Rethinking the Process

If admissions season didn’t work out the way you thought it would, give yourself a moment to consider what happened. You definitely put in your best efforts to compile those applications, but it’s possible that you may have needed more guidance selecting schools that better match your academic profile.

If grades were an issue, you might want to consider attending community college. You can attend with the intention to boost your GPA so you can transfer to a four-year school later, or you may decide that an associate degree can fulfill your needs too.

Spend the time to reevaluate whether college is the best immediate next step for you. There are countless training and educational programs that could spark a new interest and set you on the path to a fulfilling career you haven’t considered yet. A gap year is another good alternative option to consider. Taking time off to work, intern, or travel before college is popular in other parts of the world, and it’s recently beginning to catch on in the United States as well.

No matter what you decide, keep in mind that rejection doesn’t determine your value and govern who you are. Sometimes the future you imagined is only one of several better scenarios.

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