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It all starts with that skinny envelope in the mail with the college's address in the corner. You tear it open with shaking fingers. This is the moment you have been waiting for. The paper inside is terrifyingly thin, and you unfold it slowly. After the first sentence, your heart drops to the floor: "We are sorry to inform you that we are not able to offer you admission at this time."

Rejection. Most of us, when anticipating the college application process, envision glowing recommendation letters, inspiring essay questions, and piles of thick envelopes begging us to attend. Unfortunately, it does not always work out this way.

Receiving that fateful Thin Envelope can seem like the end of the world. No one ever expects to be rejected, and no matter how low your SAT scores were or how blank your applications seemed compared to those of your friends, no one is ever fully prepared for the moment when you realize your dream school doesn't want you.

Still, there is life after denial. With some simple self-evaluation you can hop back on the road to success. First, it's important to realize that there is no fail-proof formula for applying to college. Every school is looking for something different. Even if you fit the published criteria perfectly, no school can admit everyone. Maybe your application was evaluated later than the other "qualified" applicants; maybe the pool of candidates was exceptionally strong this year.

Next, think about how badly you really wanted to go to that school in the first place. If it was your first choice, consider calling the college and asking for a profile of their applicant pool. This lists the qualifying criteria and how you compare. If, after reviewing this information, you see that you were within or only slightly below the average, consider appealing the decision.

Many colleges have an appeal process in addition to the waiting list, and it is this route that some desperate hopefuls take. According to an article on, this should only be explored when all other options are closed, because the likelihood of getting in is slim. But if you are desperate to go to Ideal University, this might be the route for you.

If there's still time, you may want to retake the SAT or ACT, because sometimes only a few extra points can make a difference. If your grades improve senior year, your chances of admission at a slightly later date may improve as well.

Think about applying to another school instead, if appealing seems too drastic or time is running short. Many exceptional colleges have rolling admissions that accept students year-round, so it is never too late to apply. The college search option on can also help with this, as can your high school guidance counselor.

Did you get into one of your "safety schools"? Consider starting there and transferring to your dream school. A year or two at a community or public college such as ECC can prepare you for finishing at a private, more prestigious university. It is often easier to transfer in than to win admission as a freshman.

Finally, remember that sometimes it can be easier to have such a difficult decision made for you. Consider this: students who are accepted to all their dream schools may have to choose between four or five "perfect" universities. If you only get into one, that problem is solved. Stop worrying about rejection and concentrate on what is ahead: making the most out of your education, no matter what college you attend.

Lizz Schumer is a senior at Immaculata Academy.