What College Rejection Really Means (and How to Deal With It)

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You’ve sent your college applications and can’t stop envisioning yourself in your first-choice college. But then, the unimaginable happens: you get rejected. The rejection letter suddenly jolts you back to reality, and you begin to wonder what went wrong. The truth is that many people have passed this route just like you and survived it. So, while we understand the pain you’re going through, we can assure you that it’s only a path to bigger things. You just have to know how to handle the situation.

This article will take you on an expository journey through what college rejection really means. We’ll also review tips to help you deal with the situation better. Let’s go!

How Common is College Application Rejection?How Common is College Application Rejection?

College application rejection is as common as college applications themselves. Simply put, if there are college applications, there will be college application rejection. Colleges reject students’ applications for numerous reasons, but one of the most common reasons is because “demand is greater than supply.”

Most colleges do not have the facilities or capabilities to accommodate all the student applications they get in a year. So they result in proper scrutiny to admit only the best applicants.

Colleges also set other standards for admission and, as such, can reject people that do not meet these standards.

The best way to avoid rejection is to check with your choice college beforehand to know their admission standards. Most colleges will have information like this on their websites. But, if you don’t see it, you can take the extra step to contact the school.

What Causes College Applications to Get Rejected? Top 5 Reasons

What Causes College Applications to Get Rejected? Top 5 Reasons

Filling out the college application form is a lot of stress on its own. You work meticulously on it to do what’s right and impress admission officers. The last thing you want is for your college application to get rejected after all the work. But you can only avoid this by learning what college rejection really means and how to avoid it. Here are five common reasons why college applications typically get rejected. We hope you can use the knowledge to edit your college application and prevent rejection.

The competitive nature of high-ranking college 

College applications sent to Ivy League colleges have a higher chance of rejection because of the number of applications such colleges get every year. Ivy League colleges have a very high standard, and only applications that meet these standards are accepted. Even when you feel you have done your best and put in the work in school and with your community, there are others too out there who have done the same and even more. They also want a slot in these schools; you shouldn’t be too surprised if theirs is considered before yours.

So when sending in college applications to these schools, you should remember that the chances of rejection are higher.

The acceptance rate of the college

Recent statistics show that Ivy League colleges such as Princeton and Harvard have very high rates of application rejection. The acceptance rate of such colleges ranks from 4%, the lowest, and 21%, the highest. So imagine out of 20,000 applications sent in yearly, only a bare minimum is accepted. While considering colleges to apply for, think about the acceptance rate of the college of choice. Do they have a high rate of college application rejection? If yes, then you might want to apply to another college.

Poorly written college application

Different colleges have different standards when it comes to considering college applications. Your application will be rejected if it does not meet the standard set by the college for applications to be approved.

Some of the common issues with applications include;

  • Lots of grammatical or typographical errors
  • Lack of  detailed information about you and why you should be considered
  • Incomplete documents such as missing test scores, recommendation letters, etc.

All these can weigh heavily on the quality of your application. In the case of incomplete documents, some colleges give time for all documents to be completed before the admission period is over. However, if, after the added time, you don’t complete all documents, your application will be rejected.

Scores are below the cut-off mark

For every course, there is an average score the applicant is required to have before their application is considered. The same thing applies to the college of choice. Every college requires that the applicant scores an average or above average on their SAT or ACTs and has a fair or high rating from their high school (for high schools that rate their students).

Scoring below average in any of these exams or poor performance in high school can cause your application to be rejected.

Record(s) of behavioral misconduct

Applicants are supposed to give a brief description of themselves, and this description has to be an honest one. Perhaps an applicant has a record or is a repeated offender; this will drastically reduce their chances of being accepted. Although every college handles cases like this differently, it’s generally a red flag and affects admission decisions. If an applicant is also a repeat offender, then there is an almost 0.01% chance of being accepted, especially if it’s an application to a college with zero tolerance for violence.

How Do You Know if You Got Rejected from College?

How Do You Know if You Got Rejected from College?

Each college operates at different times and policies; they all have different time frames for processing applications. Application processing time can also be affected by the course of study. So, while you and your friends might apply for the same college, you might get your response at different times because you all applied for different courses. Some colleges might take days, weeks, or even months.

But whatever the situation is, colleges will typically write back to applicants to tell them about their status with the college. It could be accepted, awaiting, or rejected. However, colleges are not obligated to discuss the reason for their decisions with the applicants, so if you get rejected (which we are not hoping for), you would need to scrutinize your application by yourself to check for faults to avoid in your next application.

What to Do If All Colleges Reject Your Application?

What to Do If All Colleges Reject Your Application?

This is one news every applicant dreads, but it is sometimes inevitable. The rejection might be due to one or more of the reasons we listed above, or it could be a different reason altogether; we can’t say for sure. But if you ever get a college application rejection, here are a few tips on how to deal with college rejection.

Review your application

There’s a significant possibility that the application sent out did not meet the standard of the college applied for. Go over your essays, your scores, and your documents. You can even show it to a few people to help you review your application. This way, you’ll see where you went wrong and make corrections for future applications. If certain documents were missing, get them; if your ACT scores were below average, study more and retake the test.

Do more research on the college 

Take this time to do extensive research on the college you applied for. You could visit the college and speak to the students there. You can even talk to the guidance counselor to help put things in perspective. This way, you’ll have the upper hand when you reapply.


One college rejection does not mean you would never get the opportunity to go to school at that college. Yes, we understand that you’re probably going through a college rejection depression, but don’t drown yourself in it. Now you have an added knowledge about the school, and how its system works. You can use this added knowledge to review your application and find errors you’ve made. The confidence you’ll get from doing this will help you perform better next time.

Get a job 

While waiting for the year to come full cycle so you could reapply, get a job. Avoid sitting at home idle and wallowing in self-pity because you were rejected. While it is okay to do that for a few days or maybe weeks, get up and get going. Get a job to keep your mind sharp and active.


While hoping to reapply to your college of choice, you might want to consider applying for other colleges that offer close to what your dream college offers. Consider a college close to home or one with a lower tuition fee but still offers good opportunities. This will better your odds of getting into college rather than waiting for one college.

Can You Reapply to the Same College After You've Been Rejected?

Can You Reapply to the Same College After You’ve Been Rejected?

Absolutely! You can reapply for the same college you were once rejected from, but not immediately. Colleges keep a record of applications they have rejected previously, so applying again within the same school term/semester you were rejected would only put you at risk of being rejected again.

You should wait till the term/semester has come full cycle, then you can reapply. Some colleges are open for application from June through to September. Others run till January. The window for application varies from college and also varies for different study courses. Do your research and discover when these windows are open, then reapply.

5 Tips for Dealing with College Rejection

5 Tips for Dealing with College Rejection

College rejection is a big deal and can significantly affect you. But there are ways to deal with it. Here are helpful tips to help you handle college rejection better.

Don’t be too hard on yourself 

College rejection is something every applicant has faced at some point in their lives unless they didn’t apply for any college. A college rejection has nothing to do with your worth as a person or your abilities. It just means there was an issue with your written application or the school. It is part of life, so don’t beat yourself up. While applicants are encouraged to accept and deal with their feelings, do not do that for too long. Take time to grief but make it brief.

Look on the bright side

Perhaps you were rejected from your dream college but have been accepted into another college; take that as a victory and be merry. What’s that saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade .”It was not what you hoped for, but at least it is something. Be grateful for that. If you were rejected from all the colleges you applied for, no need to be wary; reapply and keep at it until you are accepted.

Move On 

As we’ve earlier said, one or more college rejection does not define you as a person. So when you get a rejection letter from your dream college, take it head on and move on. There’s no need to put your life on hold when there are other things to be done. Get busy, get a job, a new hobby, new drive, research more, learn more, do more, and be more. It isn’t the time to wallow in college rejection depression. Get up and move.

Consider transferring

You were rejected by your dream college but accepted into another college. Go on with it so you can apply for a transfer to your dream college after a year. Applicants stand a higher chance of being accepted by colleges as transfer students than applicants who are fresh off high school. “Ivy League colleges,” in fact, accept more transfer students than new applicants. Starting from somewhere gives you a higher chance of acceptance.

Reapply, don’t give up hope

One college rejection shouldn’t deter you from your plans. Wait until the school calendar has come full circle, and then reapply. Reapply to the same college and other colleges as well. Do not let a letter or mail get in the way of all you want to achieve. If that is your dream college, reapply as often as you can until you are accepted.

Wrapping Things Up: What College Rejection Really Means (and How to Deal With It)

However you choose to look at it, the truth remains that college rejection hurts a lot. It’s one of the most challenging situations for any student. Finding out that your months of hard work can’t see you through the college application process. But that’s not the end of life. Fortunately, you can reapply again for the next academic session, but how you deal with the present situation can determine whether it makes or mar you. We’ve dedicated a significant part of this article to explain how to deal with college rejection. Hopefully, the tips in the article will help you pick your pieces, reapply, and prepare better for your future.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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