Handling Rejection

Jaadyyah Shearrion ’20, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

What’s up, I’m back again. I know some of you have already gotten your acceptance letters from ED schools, I also know that some of you haven’t gotten the response you wanted from those ED schools. I applied to Wellesley College, a very competitive all women’s liberal arts school, as an early decision student. Sadly, I wasn’t accepted and I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave my house that entire weekend. I thought my dreams of going to college were over. I’m telling you now, it’s okay to initially be upset.

To get myself out of that funk I gave myself a pep talk about how that college wasn’t ready for me yet, they need time to get used to the idea of me. After my super dope pep talk, I started to distance myself from college. I unfollowed all their social media accounts and threw away all the evidence that I was interested in the college. Once those steps have concluded, I would suggest talking to someone. I definitely needed a shoulder to cry on, maybe you won’t need someone to bawl your eyes out like me, but it’s very relieving to talk to someone about this. 

I know it’s definitely hard not to take the decision personally. You might think that whoever looked at your application obviously didn’t look hard enough. And maybe they didn’t. But it’s not the end of the world, trust me! 

Hopefully, you’ve made a strong list of potential colleges that you’ve also applied to. If not, some colleges do have a super late application date, like December 30th, while some even go into January. It never hurts to have some kind of a back-up plan, and then a back-up plan for that back-up plan. For example,

  • Get excited about your other schools. Maybe they see the real you and will be a better fit anyway.
  • Reapply next year. It may be just as hard to get in then, but it’s worth a try. And it gives you a chance to amp up your profile and application.
  • Remember that you can transfer later. If you still want to attend your dream school, you have the option of trying to transfer in, down the road.

Though rejection does hurt, take it in stride. I definitely took my rejection hard, but I took my time to process it, and now I feel like I’m ready to move on from the college that didn’t accept my love. 

No matter what you choose to do, take care to remind yourself that getting rejected doesn’t mean you’re a bad student or that your application was horrendous. It just means that the school could only admit so many people, and you happened to not be one of them.

Even though the college admissions process can feel like an uphill battle, just know that you’re definitely not alone. As we say at my alma mater, “Fight on!”

Next Steps after Rejection

Sometimes, in the college application process, you aren’t going to get the answer you want. It can feel awful, especially after all the work you put into your essay, supplemental writing, and classes in general. But you can and will move forward. You just need to take the time to breathe, think, and take the next step in the process.

Take care of yourself

Whether you want to admit it or not, you’re probably dealing with some pretty negative emotions after getting rejected. That is totally, 100%, absolutely normal and valid. Let yourself process those emotions, however works best for you. Watch a movie. Eat ice cream. Go for a run. Scream into a pillow. Pause and let yourself feel whatever you’re feeling. Then, once you feel better, you can move on.

Take stock

Where else did you apply? Are there still schools accepting applications? Are there colleges you applied for that want to interview you? Lay out all of your options, because you still have plenty. 

Reflect

What did you like best about the school you applied to ED or EA? Was it the environment, the academic programs, or the location? You can use this information to decide which of the other colleges on your list might still be a great fit for you. Many colleges offer similar programs and opportunities, so while you might have loved certain qualities in the one school you didn’t get into, don’t think you can’t find a comparable experience somewhere else. 

Be positive

The one thing you can control in this process is your outlook. If you interview with other schools but make it very clear that they weren’t your first choice, they might not take that very well. There is still so much to look forward to no matter what school you end up at. Look for the bright side and focus on that.

Be yourself

Any school you get into is lucky to have you. You are a uniquely individual person and student that has a lot to offer. Figure out how your interests and passions can be displayed at the schools you get into, and own up to it. Will you be the best player on their team? The star of the show? An incredible artist or Dean’s List student? At the end of the day, college is what you make of it. Even if you aren’t at your dream school, you can still find outlets to be yourself and do something incredible at any college or university.

Rejection is hard, and this likely isn’t the last time you’ll have to deal with it in your life. But you can learn and grow from it, just like everything else. Don’t rush into the next opportunity without letting yourself feel sad or mad or disenchanted, but know that there are so many amazing chances just beyond this. 

Filling out the Common App Activities Section

You’ve uploaded a resume. You’ve submitted a transcript. Why on earth do you need to fill out the Common App activity section as well?

The activity section is a chance for you to display your interests, commitments, and accomplishments throughout high school. Colleges and universities will look at this section to understand how you spend your time outside of the classroom. Are you involved in your community? Have you shown leadership or taken initiative? This is your opportunity to define your passions clearly and concisely, and we’re going to show you how to stand out. 

Step 1: Choosing a category

With each extracurricular you upload, you’ll have to select one of the following categories:

  • Academic
  • Art
  • Athletics: Club
  • Athletics: JV/Varsity
  • Career-Oriented
  • Community Service (Volunteer)
  • Computer/Technology
  • Cultural
  • Dance
  • Debate/Speech
  • Environmental
  • Family Responsibilities
  • Foreign Exchange
  • Journalism/Publication

  • Junior R.O.T.C.
  • LGBT
  • Music: Instrumental
  • Music: Vocal
  • Religious
  • Research
  • Robotics
  • School Spirit
  • Science/Math
  • Student Gov.t./Politics
  • Theater/Drama
  • Work (paid)
  • Other Club/Activity

As you can tell, there are a lot of options, and it can be pretty confusing, especially since you can only choose one category per activity. Make sure to choose the category that’s most relevant (i.e. for Robotics Club, choose “Robotics” instead of “Science/Math.” 

Pro tip: it helps to diversify your categories so colleges can see that you have multiple interests. For example, if you are in a math club, academic decathlon, and tutoring, don’t list all three as “Academic.” Choose “Science/Math,” “Academic,” and “Community Service” respectively to show your different passions. 

Step 2: Position and description

Now that you’ve chosen a category, you need to say what you actually do. First, you have 50 characters to list your title and the name of the organization. Try to avoid just calling yourself a “member” – you do so much more than that! If you work at a food bank, you’re a volunteer. If you’re on an athletic team, list your position. 

For the description, you have 150 characters to explain what you’ve done with that organization. Because of the limited space, you don’t have to write in complete sentences, but be sure to keep it professional. It’s also easier to include numbers so that admissions officers can understand the scope of your work. Instead of saying “I wrote for the school newspaper,” you can say “Researched, wrote, and edited two 500-word articles per week.”

This is also the space to share your accomplishments. Be proud (without bragging)! Let colleges know how you’ve succeeded, whether in competitions, awards, or recognition from your peers or coaches. 

Step 3: Time commitment

There are four last questions to answer for each activity you list.

  1. Years active. You can list either school years or school breaks when you were involved. Make sure to include activities you did for multiple years if possible, as this shows your dedication.
  2. Hours per week. This doesn’t mean how many hours did you spend in meetings. If you’re in the band, did you practice each week? If you’re on the debate team, did you go to competitions? Think about how much time you commit to each activity, even if it’s not a formal meeting. This is a great way to show colleges how much you care about each activity. (Side note: Don’t lie! Admissions officers can count, so if you say you do 10 activities each for 10 hours every week, they might smell something fishy. There’s no need to overexaggerate, but be realistic about how you spend your time!)
  3. Weeks per year. This one is pretty simple – if you do it during the school year only, that’s about 40 weeks. If you participate in a seasonal sport, it’ll be around 15 to 20. 
  4. Continuing in college. No pressure! Colleges won’t reject you because you want to leave your oboe at home after high school. They just want to know what your true passions are… like the passion section of your CollegeFindMe account!

Last-minute tips

A few more things to remember:

  • You can only list 10 activities. This can include clubs, jobs, community service, or just about anything else that takes up your time outside of school. However, there’s no need to fill the list. Focus on the activities that you think best define you. This should probably include groups you’ve been with for longer, or organizations where you hold leadership positions. 
  • Make sure to list what your organization does. If they use an acronym (like YES, FFA, NHS, etc.) explain it in the description.
  • When organizing your 10 activities, put them in order of importance. Groups you’ve been with longer, groups you hold leadership positions in, and groups you’ve won awards in should go to the top.
  • If you’re still part of the organization, write the description in present tense. Grammar is important!

This may seem like a lot. But don’t worry. Think about who you are and what matters to you. That’s what you should convey in the activities section of the Common App. To get a head start, try organizing your passion in the CollegeFindMe app. We’ll help you work on personal statements, keep track of achievements, and build a portfolio. When applications are due, you’ll be ready to go!

Avoiding Application Costs

Meghna Chhabra ‘20, Prospect Hill Academy

You’ve taken your tests. You’ve written your essays. You’re ready to submit your applications, but there’s one more piece of the puzzle. Some colleges charge application fees to help pay for reading your college application and making admission decisions. And, ironically, some financial aid services like the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile charge you to apply. So while you may want to apply to 20 schools, keep in mind that there will be a cost. 

Application costs

College applications can range from anywhere between $40 to $90, though the average application fee is $60. Luckily, not all schools charge application fees, or may offer fee waiver programs (we’ll talk about these a bit later).

Additional costs

There are some additional costs for taking the SAT and ACT, sending in your SAT and ACT score reports, and submitting your CSS profile to the schools you’re applying to. 

  • The SAT costs $49.50 (no essay) or $64.50 (with essay). There’s an additional $30 fee if you registered late. 
  • The ACT costs $52.00 (no writing) or $68.00 (with optional writing test). There’s an additional $29.50 fee if you registered late. 
  • It costs $12 for each school you send your SAT score report to, and $13 for each school you send your ACT score report to.
  • The CSS Profile costs $25 to fill out and send to one school. There’s a $16 charge for each additional school you send yourCSS Profile to.

Fee waivers

Those costs can be a little scary, and can add up pretty quickly. Luckily, there are several ways you can avoid the fees for the SAT, ACT, and college applications.

  • College Board offers fee waivers for students taking the SAT or ACT and when sending in score reports.
  • The Common App offers fee waivers when applying to schools.
  • Some colleges also offer their own fee waiver programs, which you may have to apply for separately. 

SAT waivers

You can avoid the SAT costs if: 

  • You’re enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • Your family’s income is within the Income Eligibility Guidelines.
  • You’re enrolled in a federal, state, or local program for low-income families (e.g., Federal TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in federally subsidized public housing or a foster home, or are homeless.
  • You’re a ward of the state, or an orphan.

You can use your SAT fee waiver as many times as you want. 

ACT waivers

To get an ACT fee waiver, you have to be a junior or senior, take your test in the US or a US territory, and meet one of the same standards set for the SAT (except for students who are orphans or wards of the state). Your fee waiver can only be used to send your score profile to a maximum of 20 schools. 

CSS Profile waivers

You can get a CSS Profile fee waiver if: 

  • You received a SAT fee waiver
  • Your family’s expected income is $45,000 or less, or
  • You’re an orphan or ward of the state under the age of 24.

Other options

If you don’t qualify for any of these fee waivers, there are still plenty of options. Try some of the following: 

  • Apply to diversity and outreach programs at colleges
  • Email your admission representatives at colleges explaining your financial circumstances
  • Just ask for one! Colleges might give you one if you show demonstrated interest in the school.

The World of Portfolios

Briti Prajapat, CollegeFindMe Intern

Out of those hundreds of thousands of applicants, how can you stand out? Are you excelling in school? Do your test scores set a promising representation of you and your abilities? If you’re an artist, then your talents might be another great way to set you apart from the crowd.

Whether it be dancing, painting, acting, or singing, your skills may be rarer than you think. Just by submitting a clip of you singing or a collage of your amazing drawings, you can stand out from other students in the application pool.

What should you send?

Well, the hard part is to choose what to use. Answer these questions: what are you most proud of? What do you think reflects your abilities? And lastly, is it unique?

If you want to turn in a video of you singing, choose a song that is challenging, yet you have managed to not just sing it well, but also highlight your vocals. You also need to be careful not to choose a song that contains inappropriate words and sentences. So basically, select a song that you can sing during a family gathering or a school event.

Furthermore, for artists, make sure to save ALL your artwork from previous years of art classes. Choose your favorites, but if you have any questions, seek help from your art teacher. Your pile of artwork for your portfolio should include only 10 to 20 of your best artworks, showing both your skills in a variety of media as well as your development in a few media over time. This will help to show schools the range of your talents, but also your commitment to mastering one or two artforms.

Unlike drawers, dancers should try to concentrate on one specific type of dance. If you are a dancer and you want to submit a group dance, be sure that it focuses mostly on you.

An important note

Some colleges and universities do not necessarily have a section on Common App where you can attach your portfolio. To submit your portfolio to these schools, you can mention it in the “Additional Information” section and attach the link. Also, you can send a professional email to the admissions committee of the school informing them about your interest in submitting a portfolio.

Don’t be afraid to display your true talents!  Show these colleges what you have to offer through our platform – we’re working on a new function where students can share their profile photos and videos with schools!

From one artist to another, I wish you luck!