I am very sorry to let you know that we are unable to offer you admission to ______ University. Please know that this decision in no way diminishes your application. We were humbled by your talents and achievements and by the commitment you demonstrate in all of your academic and extracurricular endeavors.
Oh, the dreaded rejection letter. You fear it. We all do. But guess what? Being rejected from college is just the beginning.
A Relevant Encounter
Recently, I watched upperclassmen friends relive the admissions process once again. Whether or not they were accepted into Berkeley’s Haas Undergraduate School of Business determined if they could major in Business Administration, become “Haasholes”, and gain helpful connections for securing highly sought-after internships and jobs. Haas also consistently ranks as one of the premier business programs in the country, so there’s a prestige factor associated with the name as well.
Unlike the selection process for other majors, in which acceptance is based solely on GPA in prerequisite classes, the business program also requires essays and a resume. The resume technically only weighs approximately 15% in their decision, but it’s common knowledge that without an impressive breadth of extracurricular activities, your chance of getting in is close to zero. Consequently, freshmen and sophomores compete for spots in the best clubs in order to gain relevant experiences and build connections to mentors.
Competition, Competition, Competition
Business consulting groups are by far the most competitive, with the top groups often attracting up to three hundred applications for only five or six spots. Once accepted, students work on semester-long projects to solve issues posed by the clients and present to company and organization heads. In addition, students also participate in case competitions to gain experience and potentially win awards to include on their resumes.
Quite a few of my sophomore friends have done it all. They’ve crossed their i’s, dotted their t’s, had Haas upperclassmen read through their essays, secured impressive internships, and are generally just incredibly accomplished people. But they were rejected.
It doesn’t stop with college decisions.
No One Is Safe
There’s this misconception among high school students that once you get into your dream college, you’re set for life. Automatically, you will always be part of this elite club that guarantees you internships and high-paying jobs. Contrary to popular belief, however, rejection spares no one.
McKinsey & Company, one of the top consulting firms in the world, has a renowned four percent (or less) acceptance rate for internships and full time offers. Tens of thousands of people vie for a position in the company each year, and applicants have to go through three or more rounds of intense interviews and case studies.
For opportunities like this, your school name can only take you so far. This is not unique to top firms like McKinsey, but for almost every opportunity out there. Whether or not you proceed through the recruitment rounds, nail your interviews, and ultimately receive an offer is up to your personal performance (and potentially a little bit of luck). Similar to the competitions you prepared for and the classes you studied for in high school, your results are dependent on your work ethic and dedication.
Acceptance (and rejection) Is Just The First Step
For my upperclassmen friends, they too worked incredibly hard in high school to ultimately come to Cal. Once they arrived in college, they studied like nobody’s business for their classes and spent hundreds of hours pursuing their interests in extracurricular activities. Day by day, week by week, they built up their skills and experience for the road ahead.
No, they weren’t accepted into Haas. But for them it was just a small bump in the road. The rejection letter didn’t mean that their years of hard work went to waste. The foundation of knowledge from the lessons they learned along the way is something that can never be taken away.
Photo by Jared Belson
Similarly, for the people who maybe “got lucky” and were accepted into the business program, their letter of congratulations is just the beginning. If they don’t work just as hard with the same level of capabilities as their peers, they will find themselves struggling to keep up in the future. It may feel like labels and titles define you, but whether or not you have the knowledge to back them up is something that can’t be disguised.
In the End…
So what’s the moral of the story? I’m sure that, for the seniors out there right now, you are all nervously anticipating the results that are coming out over the course of the next two weeks. It may feel like the end of the world. But something incredibly important to keep in mind that helped me personally get through this nerve-wracking season is this: “what’s yours is yours, and nobody can take that away from you.”
Ultimately you’ll only be able to attend one school in the end. If you don’t get into your numero uno dream school, you have the option to try and transfer in. If you get waitlisted, you may have the opportunity to submit additional material. But remember to think broadly: your college should not define who you are, and it is not the only indicator of your future success.
If or when you get a rejection letter in the weeks to come, just remember: it’s only the beginning of a much longer, much more challenging, but incredibly meaningful journey.
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