In a lot of ways, my senior year of high school was nothing short of chaos. I was constantly stressed, slept no more than six hours every night and frequently relied on a largely Cheetos-based diet. In retrospect, I mildly regret a few of the lifestyle choices I made in high school. 

However, one thing I don’t feel ashamed about is my college rejections. 

As a college freshman, college decisions aren’t something I dwell on or think about often. However, I do think there’s something to be learned from every experience, and college rejections were a great opportunity for self-reflection. Although I’ll never definitively know why my college decisions panned out the way they did, I have a few guesses as to why I was rejected from a handful of the schools I applied to. If you’re currently a senior in high school, hopefully you can learn from how I could’ve strengthened my college applications and will be able to improve your own.

For one thing, I didn’t fully take advantage of opportunities to show interest in the colleges I was rejected from during the application process.

 Since my main priority as a senior was juggling schoolwork and extracurriculars, I neglected to register for optional interviews, which might’ve given me a leg up in the admissions process. Additionally, on certain writing supplements, I didn’t mention unique aspects that I liked about the schools. Instead, I concentrated on sharing my past experiences and failed to show how the colleges I was writing the essays for would help me pursue my plans for the future. If I connected my future aspirations to school-specific programs, I could have shown admissions officers that I did my research on the school and had reasons for wanting to attend there. Thus, even if the essay prompts don’t explicitly ask you to discuss special programs that you like about the college, if you’re able to weave in specifics, you’ll demonstrate a clearer interest in the places you’re applying to.

Aside from that, I also could have chosen better aspects of myself to talk about in my supplemental essays. 

For instance, at one college, I had to submit four essays. Although I loved working with children, there were other activities I was just as passionate about, so dedicating two of those four essays to volunteering with kids might have been a mistake. At any school, it’s probably best to vary your responses to show different sides of yourself, especially if you can talk about hobbies related to your plans for the future. Since you only have a set number of words to tell admissions officers about yourself, you should try to talk about things that are really important to you, so keep this in mind when deciding which activities to mention.

Most likely the biggest factor in my rejections, however, is that college admissions are simply a competitive process. 

With so many qualified applicants, admissions officers are just trying to select students that will be a good match for their communities; whoever reviewed my applications probably felt I would be more at home in a different environment. I wasn’t entitled to be accepted to any of the colleges I applied to—this thought is part of why I don’t like using the term “safety schools”—so I don’t view my rejections as anything I need to take personally. By sheer probability, there must have been great candidates that were turned away from colleges that I was accepted to yet were accepted to places that would reject me. With that in mind, it’s important to realize that every person has their own unique background and talents to offer. Admissions officers are responsible for finding students that will be a good fit for their school specifically, not comparing whether one person is arbitrarily better than the other.

At the end of the day, although I entered into the application process with a genuine interest in attending any of the schools I applied to, I’m at peace with my rejections.

 While I would’ve seriously considered any of the schools that accepted me, I think everything happens for a reason and not being accepted by all of the schools I applied to doesn’t keep me up at night. Ultimately, my rejections helped lead me to a college I’m very grateful to be attending, so being fortunate enough to attend a college is something I hope I never take for granted.

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