What if I don't get accepted to my dream school?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on March 23, 2022
Getting Rejected

Generally, there are two types of high school students: those that have no idea where they want to go to college, and those that know exactly where they want to go and where they “belong.” A lot of these students become fixated on their dream schools, either because of reputation, legacy, or a dreamy, beachside campus. Whatever the motivation, students shouldn't let a particular school become too much a part of their identity, because what happens if they don't get in?


Here's a common story of how things can happen at school. You get good grades, you do tons of unique extracurriculars, volunteer work, foreign languages, musical instruments, and you still don't get into your dream school. It seems like you’ve checked off all the boxes and would be the ideal student. So, what's the deal? Are you still not good enough to get in, or are there other factors coming into play? With the increased applications at most competitive schools, it is a mathematical reality that there will be more rejections and waitlisted students than anytime in history.


When it comes to the difference between getting in and not getting in, the details are hard to define. There's a kind of alchemy that goes on behind admissions doors, and no real formula as to who gets in and who doesn’t. There can be test score trends, for example, but there are always exceptions to what seem to be the rules. In any case, if you try to spend too much time analyzing why you didn't get in, you'll end up dizzy with possibilities and self-doubt.


So how does one avoid the disappointment and drama of not getting in from the get-go? After this intense period of uncertainty, we’ve all been trained a little more when it comes to flexibility and understanding. It's all about having the right expectations beforehand. Don't think about yourself defined by a school, which can be oversimplified as a "brand." A college is much more than that - it's an experience, and all colleges have the potential to become what you make of them. They are not fixed entities but are malleable because of the student body.


So ultimately, being rejected from your dream school is not a barrier, but just another way you’ll be tested on your ability to be resilient and move on to the secondary plan. With the ease of online applications, test-optional policies and more flexible, hybrid programs, more applicants are applying, and the odds are just that much more stacked against you. But have confidence that even if your Plan A doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean that you have failed or wouldn’t be a good fit for the school. College applications, while somewhat personal, are not entirely representative of one’s character, ambition, and potential.

 Happy College Student

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Neal Schwartz, Owner

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Topics: college counseling, test optional, college application, holistic college admissions review, college planning, college acceptance, college rejection, college fit, college waitlist


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