The Piedmont Highlander

The Student News Site of Piedmont High School

The Piedmont Highlander

The Piedmont Highlander

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April 18, 2024

You Are Not Your Application


A Message to the PHS Class of 2022,

Accepted or rejected. For many students, the last four years have been spent trying to mold ourselves into what we think is the perfect applicant–  cultivating personas: who we are as students, athletes, artists, musicians, advocates, and friends. Hours have been poured into standardized testing, extracurriculars, writing, and fighting Naviance; most of our teenage life has been leading up to the moment of finding out where we will go to college. It all seems to boil down to clicking “Status Update” to see a college decision letter. And, almost inevitably, all those hours lead up to reading at least one rejection letter. Almost inevitably, every college applicant is left feeling inadequate.

There’s no denying that college rejection, or any form of rejection, is tough. Yet, despite the years of conscious and unconscious preparation, all we’re told is not to be sad or frustrated. 

You are not defined by the colleges that accept you, nor by the colleges that reject you. You are defined by what you have done, from your concrete accomplishments in high school to your intangible personal growth as an individual. College admissions readers only see a tiny portion of your life and are unable to see the full picture. No matter how artfully you select what parts of yourself to show, you are inherently more lovely as your unadulterated self.

The circumstances in which your essays are read are out of your control; you’ll never know if your reader had eaten lunch yet, shared experiences written about in your essays, or just had a bad day.  You cannot include every piece of information on your college application, so you should not consider yourself any less of a person because you were not admitted to your dream school. 

You also cannot choose where or if your parents attended college. Legacy and finances never negate one’s qualifications as a candidate, but they can serve as a step up that not every student has.  

Many colleges have also seen large influxes of applications for the fall of 2022. As of November 16, 2021, the number of total applications submitted through the Common Application increased 22%, compared to the number of applications submitted for the fall of 2021, according to With these record high numbers of applicants, schools and scholarships are only getting more competitive, and the expectation of attending your dream school is that much harder. 

We’ve also all seen the headlines about college admissions scandals: from Varsity Blues to the newest one surrounding some of the nation’s leading universities and colleges lying about their supposed need blind admissions approach. Besides the inherent problem of trying to distill yourself into ten activities and a 650-word essay, there are larger systemic problems at hand. It feels like as much as we try our best to be the perfect applicants, it truly is out of our control.  

While rejection is difficult to deal with, on many occasions it is for the best. Many students during the application process fail to acknowledge the true difficulty of college. Classes get larger, teachers are harder to reach, and you no longer live in the comforts of your own home. While each school comes with their own advantages and drawbacks, not every school is right for every student.

In a way, we can try and find some peace with that. A rejection or acceptance letter is more than just a reflection on you— there are larger powers at play. Whether you’re rejected or accepted does not say anything on your qualifications or ability to do great things. With all of this, remember to take rejections with a grain of salt. You’re more than the 650-word personal statement. You’re more than 10 activities. Celebrate the effort that you have put in throughout all of your teenage life. Celebrate the opening of a new chapter, no matter where it is.

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