Rejection is a fact of life. It happens to everyone. It’s happened to me, my husband, my family, my colleagues, and it’s even happened to business tycoon Warren Buffet and college presidents like Lee Bollinger. But to use another cliché adage, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The entire college search process is a pivotal step in psychological, emotional, and personal development. It’s part of the maturation and coming-of-age processes. Being able to accept rejection letters with poise and with the appropriate sentiment is the mark of a burgeoning young adult.
I once heard my boss tell a disappointed applicant that it was not that we voted specifically not to admit her, but rather that we merely voted to admit someone else. The distinction is subtle but important. Our desire to admit some students and deny others (and I do prefer the term deny to rejection — another subtle but important distinction) is not a negative reflection on those we did not admit but is instead an affirmation of the amazing aptitude and talent demonstrated by our applicants. Think about it, you know you’re wonderful. Your parents know it. Hell, we know it. The problem is most of our 12,000+ applicants are wonderful and unfortunately, we cannot admit them all. So if we could not admit you and you’re wonderful just imagine who we were able to admit and how amazing those individuals are. Deny letters are not about passing judgment on those individuals not admitted but are merely reflecting the incredible strength of an applicant pool. Acceptance letters pay homage to that same incredible pool.
So if you’re one of the students who receives a thin envelope from W&M or any other college in the days and weeks to come, remember that now you have something in common with Warren Buffet, Meredith Vieira, Tom Brokaw, Ted Turner, Lee Bollinger, and Nobel Prize winner Harold Varmus. They too were denied admission to their top choice school. But look where they are now. To use one last cliché, there are plenty of fish (aka colleges) in the sea. Your life will not be worse for not getting in to a particular university; it will simply be different, and perhaps it will even be better.
– Wendy Livingston