At College Admission Time, Lessons in Thin Envelopes

Carol’s summary:

As teens await the springtime arrival of college letters, some students will read a rejection from their college of choice as an indication that they don’t have what it takes to succeed, but as the article below iterates through several interviews with highly successful people, there are many paths on the road to success. Rejection can actually open the door to a better opportunity. Investment mogul Warren Buffet, said, “The truth is, everything that has happened in my life…that I thought was a crushing event at the time, has turned out for the better.” With the exception of health problems, he says, setbacks teach “lessons that carry you along. You learn that a temporary defeat is not a permanent one. In the end, it can be an opportunity.”

While a college rejection can be devastating initially, it can also propel students “to define their own talents and potential,” said Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, who was rejected as a teenager when he applied to Harvard. Students need to remember that there is no one perfect college. Any number of schools can be good fits and places to thrive. In the face of rejection form a college or university, here are some steps students can take:

Talk to your counselor.
S/he has been through this before with other students and knows what to do.

Apply to schools whose deadlines haven’t yet passed.
Many colleges have late admissions policies or rolling admissions. Use College Search to help you find schools that are still accepting applications.

Apply to the same schools again.
Some schools will reconsider your application if you take the SAT® again and improve your scores or if your grades shot up dramatically at the end of your senior year. Contact the admissions office.

Ask for an explanation.
Was it your high school transcript? Your essay?

Consider transferring to the college.
If you spend a year at another school, you can prove to college admissions officers that you’re motivated and ready for college-level work. Consider community and state colleges, too.


Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.” The opportunity in this situation is for students to improve their ability to risk, despite the outcome. One of the most important life lessons is that we only “fail” if we don’t try. Learning how to master these lessons now can prepare students for success in college, career and life. This is why I wrote LifeBound’s book for seniors in high school, MAJORING IN THE REST OF YOUR LIFE: Success Secrets For College Students, which includes real-world advice from other professionals who’ve faced rejection and gone on to find their best career path. To request a review copy of our new fifth edition, call the LifeBound toll free # 1.877.737.8510 or email


March 26, 2010
Before They Were Titans, Moguls and Newsmakers, These People Were…Rejected
At College Admission Time, Lessons in Thin Envelopes
By Sue Shellenbarger

Few events arouse more teenage angst than the springtime arrival of college rejection letters. With next fall’s college freshman class expected to approach a record 2.9 million students, hundreds of thousands of applicants will soon be receiving the dreaded letters.

Teenagers who face rejection will be joining good company, including Nobel laureates, billionaire philanthropists, university presidents, constitutional scholars, best-selling authors and other leaders of business, media and the arts who once received college or graduate-school rejection letters of their own.

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