A Thank You Letter to the College that Rejected Me

Dear Duke (insert the name of the college that rejected you here) University,

I’m just writing to thank you. Thank you for what, you ask?  For the big fat rejection email, you sent me 15 months ago. On the day I received your rejection I was ready to become a Blue Devil (insert your rejection college’s mascot here). My mom may or may not have even bought me a Duke baseball hat in anticipation of my acceptance.

I opened my computer at the exact moment you reported that decisions would be announced and with stars in my eyes and jittery fingers slipping off my computer keys, I clicked open the email for which I had been waiting since that day in second grade when I decided where I wanted to spend my college years. I scrolled down to see phrases like “more applicants than ever this year” and “your application was outstanding, however…” and I knew there was no need to read any further. 

I got over my college rejection and the school I chose was even better than imagined. (Twenty20 @DashaPetrenko)

I opened your email and it was a full-on rejection

My throat felt like it was closing, my heart felt a pain that it had never felt before, my parents circled around me like hawks until my words pierced their hearts, too: “I was rejected. Full out rejected. They don’t want me.” Cue the dramatic fall to the kitchen floor. 

Listen up, Duke. I’m just saying — the words stung. You really hurt my feelings and squashed my lifelong dreams in a matter of seconds. And just so you know what your carefully crafted words of rejection look like IRL: they look like three days of wallowing in tears. They look like staying in bed, ignoring phone calls and sympathetic texts, rejecting offers of mint chocolate chip ice cream scoops, sushi, and shopping. 

But, dear Duke, you know I’m writing to thank you. So please, read on. 

I got over one college’s rejection when other colleges expressed their interest in me

Once I lifted my head off of my tear-stained pillow and agreed to leave my house, other college acceptances began trickling in and my higher education options were plentiful. They weren’t “Duke”, but they were colleges that wanted me. Their warm words of welcome, complimenting my high school achievements and extra-curricular experiences, pumped me up and gave me a reason to believe that my “next four” would be in a place where I belonged. 

It took some time, but I made my choice, hit up Dormify, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Walmart, and the university bookstore. I found a roommate, learned my way around at freshmen orientation, and began my college life…at NOT Duke. And in a twist of fate, I was happy and excited for what was to come. And it was even better than I imagined it could be.

I love the school I chose, that chose me

My classes and professors were inspiring, my tree-lined campus looked like it was made for an Oscar movie, the students in my classes and study groups challenged me to be my best. I made friends who felt like they’d been in my life forever. The dorm toilets were never clogged.

My residence advisor looked the other way when we pre-gamed on our hall before fun nights out and the dryers on my floor were powerful enough to require only two quarters for an entire load of towels. My writing became succinct, my study habits improved, my palate expanded to include 2:00 am Dominos cheesy bread and red jello for breakfast (don’t knock it ‘til you try it).

I was and am where I belong. 

So…THANK YOU, Duke (insert your rejected university name here).

You taught me that I had it in me to bounce back. You taught me that sometimes things in life are simply meant to be. You helped me believe that unanswered prayers are actually dreams waiting for the next opportunity.  

My college experience…thanks to you, Duke…is exactly what I hoped it would be. And even better. THANK YOU for NOT giving me the chance to walk the hallowed halls of your university buildings. Thank you for the gift of rejection.  

More to Read:

My Son Was Rejected by His Dream School. A Trip to IKEA Helped Us Both

About Wendy Siegel

Wendy Goldstein Siegel is the mom of three daughters -- two college sophomores and a high school senior. She and her husband are the owners/directors of Tyler Hill Camp, a sleep-away summer camp in the Pocono Mountains. When she's not at camp, Wendy can be found on her yoga mat, Peloton bike or trying to figure out which daughter ordered what on her Amazon account.

Read more posts by Wendy

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