College Rejection 101: Next Steps for Veterans Who Didn’t Make It

Around this time of the year, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, receive an email stating the “sincere” regrets from the schools they once dreamt of attending. The weight of rejection falls more heavily on veteran applicants than traditional applicants looking forward to their senior prom. Not only do college rejections interrupt veterans’ behind-schedule academic transition, but also rejections from schools seem to undervalue the lessons and skills they learned in the military. While social media is overflowing with college acceptance reaction videos, veterans who didn’t get into college will spend upcoming months with great sorrow and without knowing what the future holds for them.

In the spring of 2019, the last thing I wanted to see in my inbox was a letter from my applied schools that did not begin with “Congratulations!” And yet, I had to see many of them, a lot more than I wanted to. My mentor told me about the application process, but we never discussed our action plans after a potential rejection. Well, I received three consecutive rejection letters, and I became very hesitant to reach back out to my ambassador out of fear of them feeling like they had volunteered their time for nothing. I am here to tell you that I was wrong. Organizations such as Service to School and Next Step Inbound will always help you out and will never leave you high and dry–a rejection is just a bump in the road.

In this article, I don’t intend to patronize veterans who will receive or already received a rejection letter with empty clichés, but rather encourage them to continue to reach out to organizations like S2S and NSI again and again. Just because it didn’t work out the first time does not mean that things will not change, and I am a perfect example of that.

On behalf of the NSI staff and other veteran academic transition programs, I can attest that while our goal is supporting veterans’ journey in higher education, we don’t always expect to receive good news. To put this into perspective, none of us would have abandoned our military counterparts because of their incompetence in marksmanship or physical fitness. Instead, we stood shoulder to shoulder with our buddies until they completed their assignments. NSI carries the same principle: we are willing to support veterans’ academic transition through their highs and lows.

Indeed, rejections are tough. However, the way you react to rejections will critically impact your next college application or even future employment. Having the courage to share your failures with NSI representatives and letting them get involved in your academic journey is an important first step in overcoming the severe disappointment. Whether you have to make minor or major adjustments to your essay, find the right program, or practice for interviews, I’m confident that we are equipped with the right staff and resources to help you write a great come-back story.

It surprised me when I first found out Tom Brady entered the National Football League as the 199th overall draft pick; in other words, all 32 NFL teams had rejected him at least six times. The football legend’s story tells us that rejections are the opportunity to highlight our true character. Whether you receive a gigantic package or disingenuous apology letter from the schools, together, we will turn a period into a comma.