As college decisions begin to roll in, it is vital to remember one key message regarding a rejection…it’s not about you. That may seem odd, and you might be thinking, “of course it is about me,” but I can assure you, it is not. As painful and personal as a college rejection feels, it is almost never a personal rejection of you.

Most college admissions officers will tell you that the majority of applicants they receive could be academically successful at their university. Unfortunately, they just do not have the space to admit every qualified student. As such, they must strategically “build a class” based on the number of student spots available. They consider simple factors, like male vs. female, geography (where do we need more students from), intended majors (we could use some more students who want to study the humanities), or more nuanced needs like we need a new tuba player in the band, or we need to fill a spot on our debate team. Of course, most schools also recruit athletes and other specialized talent. In essence, each admissions cycle, schools need to complete a big puzzle, and we will never know for certain what pieces are needed to complete it.

There is also a relatively newer phenomenon referred to as “yield protection.” College is a business, and they want to admit students who they think are going to attend their institution. They want to “yield” a high percentage of students they admit, as that makes them look more desirable in the college world. So, if you apply to a school where you are well above their average stats, and assume it is quite likely you will be accepted, and then you are not, it may be because the school has predicted that you likely will not attend. Schools, in fact, can and do analyze data to determine who will likely accept and nobody wants to be a student’s backup.

In the college admissions process, the best plan for a student is put his or her best foot forward and showcase their strengths. Take the most rigorous classes your school offers where you can be successful, and also mentally take it on. It is never worth taking classes that are going to cause you mental anguish. Find activities, clubs and teams that are of interest to you, and get deeply involved. Do not do things, just to “look good.” You will not end up coming across as genuine if you are only doing something for the optics; true passion comes across when you engage in activities that you truly enjoy.

Despite test optional policies, solid testing will only add strength to your application. Furthermore, write compelling and thought-out essays. Do not apply to schools solely because of their name (or sports team). Apply to schools that speak to you, offer majors of interest to you, has professors that will inspire you, have a campus you find amazing and is full of people you want to hang out with.

It may seem trite, but it is important to keep in mind the old saying, “When one door closes, another door opens.” While you still maybe stinging from a rejection, it is important to know that the majority of students end up where they truly are meant to be, and end up happy and successful, even if they are not admitted to their first-choice school.

Courtney Fahn, Milestone College Advisor