Whether you’re accepted to your top school, waitlisted, or having doubts, here’s how to deal, and what to consider, for each scenario. Here are three important mindset mantras:
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up
- College is What You Make it
- Doubts Happen
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you got rejected or waitlisted from your dream school, you may be thinking: Why didn’t I study harder? Why didn’t I prepare for the SATs more? Why didn’t I take that AP course? However, I want to point out that there are a million valid reasons why you did not do each of those things.
You and I, we are not superhuman. We have other priorities in life that are more important than becoming a slave to schoolwork and the SATs or ACTs. For instance, taking care of yourself should always be a main priority. Some nights you need to go to bed early instead of adding another hour of studying. Some nights you need to relax and hang out with your friends instead of getting a head start on that next paper. Other times you may have a sports practice, student council meeting or work that prevents you from dedicating all the time in the world to studying. These are healthy priorities. It could become unhealthy and concerning if your only focus in life were to form the best college application out there.
Applying to college is an accomplishment within itself, so kudos to you for wanting to pursue a higher level of education. A rejection letter or wait-list notification does not define you or your intellectual abilities. Maybe those schools aren’t even the right fit, so trust the process. (Please tell me there is a Sixers fan somewhere reading this).
College Is What You Make It
Accepting the reality of not getting into your top school or not being able to financially afford your favorite school is challenging. It is okay to grieve the loss of this plan you had in mind, but try to remain positive. Simply put, college is what you make it. Students who have an open mind and are involved on campus truly enjoy the experience, even if the school they attend was not their first choice. See chapter 18, “Get Involved…but Not Too Involved” to figure out how to navigate all the opportunities your school has to offer.
No school is going to paint the perfect college experience for you. It is impossible for a few buildings with a sign that says “Blah Blah College” to accomplish all your hopes and wants. College is an experience, not a destination. You form a positive experience through interacting with new people and investing time and effort in your campus. Old folks reflect on “college glory days” because of the people they met and the memories they made. College isn’t the good old days because someone got accepted to their dream school.
What you put in is what you get out. If you are miserable on move-in day because you had your mind set on another institution, then chances are you are going to be miserable for quite awhile. It is important to note that nerves and homesickness are normal feelings that will likely improve with time. Chapter 5 offers ways to combat homesickness. Nevertheless, if you keep an open mind about making the school your own and your home, you will find it easier to make friends, enjoy your classes and get better acquainted with the college.
Give the schools you are considering more than one chance. Here’s a personal anecdote to show you that a making a huge decision, such as which college to attend, is not always plain and simple.
(Don’t try this at home): I visited two schools five times EACH, before choosing which college I was going to attend. Yes, you read that right. That is ten college visits between two schools…. Not to mention the other universities I toured. Bless my parents’ and siblings’ souls for accompanying me on those visits. Anyway, you might think I am crazy, but I learned something very important on the multitude of visits.
I discovered that the perfect school does not exist. You can pick any place apart and point out countless drawbacks and cons. A college becomes a home only when you make it your own. When you get involved in activities that you love, you begin meeting people with similar interests and priorities, which make it an enjoyable environment. So remain patient if you did not experience love at first sight with your school.
It is normal for your mind to wander into the thought, “what if I chose another school?” Those thoughts may pop into your head frequently during the transition from high school to college. Lean on your friends and family who can talk you through these nerves and be patient with the adjustment. If you are truly unhappy and considering transferring, chapter 28 can help you decipher what path to take.
Let’s revisit my journey of picking which college I wanted to attend. After my 500 visit days (sarcastic number estimate that is not unfortunately not too far off), I finally had to sit alone with my thoughts. Which college could I picture myself attending more? Which school has the best program for my major? Can my family and I take on those financial loans for people on pip to support my ailing parents? Is this school too far from home? Is that school too close to home? I was overwhelmed.
Everyone told me to write a pro and con list for each school. I rolled my eyes and laughed at my guidance counselors and family when they suggested that option. Then I tried it and realized it is actually a solid idea. Emotions get jumbled when you try to rack your brain for the answers, so writing your thoughts down on good old pen and paper help. I suggest you try it if you are torn between a few schools.
The moment that I knew which school I wanted to attend was when I truly examined how I felt as a visitor on each campus. I realized that at La Salle University, my school, I felt important as a visitor. People genuinely cared about my interest in the university. Students spoke with enthusiasm and passion about their campus. Faculty took the time to introduce themselves and help me understand what the school can offer. Overall, I got the sense that everyone was happy to be there. This academically and emotionally supportive environment led me to choose La Salle.
So when you have doubts, try to remember that no school is the perfect school and that you have power and control over your experience. The months leading up to college probably evoke a sweaty mixture of fear, nerves, and excitement. Embrace those feelings because they are to be expected of such a monumental life change. This book, the Freshman Survival Guide, is a resource to help alleviate those feelings of the unknown college beast. You can also reach out via the “ask the iRA” section of this website for more personalized assistance. Personal questions can go to firstname.lastname@example.org or public questions can be made in the comment section of any blog.
As you face these stressful months of acceptance letters or rejection notifications and the soon to be decision deadline, remember:
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up
- College is What You Make it.
- Doubts Happen
The team over here at The Freshman Survival Guide is rooting for you and hope you find your home away from home.