When Allison Singh ’97 matriculated at Dartmouth after being rejected from Princeton University, her top choice, she considered the College a second-tier institution. Twenty years later, she has written a book to help students cope with college rejection. In “Getting Over Not Getting In: A College Rejection Guide,” Singh said she aims to “help students move on and get excited about college again.”
Singh’s first objective in writing the book was to help students understand the arbitrary nature of the college admissions process, she said. Rejection often does not reflect a student’s qualifications or predict future success, according to Singh.
“I think a lot of students take [rejection] personally, but it’s really not about that,” she said. “Colleges often have their own agendas, be it geographic, athletic or financial concerns. A lot of times they really want to accept students, but they can’t.”
Singh also encourages students to put the situation in perspective and to focus on what each school has to offer rather than becoming fixated on a school’s name.
“It really doesn’t matter as much as students think,” she said. “These days, employers really want to know what you can do rather than where you go. Once I got out of school and was in the working world, I saw how the people who succeed really are not always the ones who go to the most prestigious schools.”
Another point Singh stresses in her book is the importance of keeping an open mind and not becoming jaded by a disappointing college admissions process, she said.
“I think there are people who come to a school and they think they’re too good for it,” she said. “They think they’re smarter than everyone else, and they’re missing out on all the opportunities that are there.”
Singh said she never intended to write a book on college admissions but was inspired to do so after a friend asked her to help a devastated student deal with rejection from her “dream school.”
“In advising that student, I started to think about what I went through, and I realized that there’s really nothing out there to help students make sense of rejection,” Singh said.
Still, Singh said she questions why top schools are not making more of an effort to increase their outreach by setting up satellite schools and online degrees.
“I’m not trying to tear down these schools, but I do think there is a commercial aspect to it these colleges are luxury brands in a way because they’re so exclusive,” she said. “Keeping the admissions rate so low helps them inflate their rating on U.S. News and World Report and to maintain the mystique of being out of reach for most people.”
During her time at Dartmouth, Singh said she thought there was a mix of students for whom Dartmouth was their first choice and students who came to the College after being rejected from “first tier” schools such as Harvard University, Princeton or Yale University.
“I think Dartmouth has become more of a hot school’ in the past 15 years, though, even in terms of pop culture,” she said, citing references to Dartmouth in television show “Grey’s Anatomy” and in the movie “Superbad” (2007).
There is a range of students who considered the College to be their first choice and those who did not, according to current students interviewed by The Dartmouth.
Amanda Martin ’15 said that although many of her peers committed early to Dartmouth especially athletes others chose Dartmouth after being rejected from their first choice.
“I think a lot of people came here because it was their backup, for lack of a better word, which is strange because it’s such a great school,” she said.
John Cofer ’15 reported feeling disappointed after not getting accepted to his early-action choice.
“All of your life up to that point seems to be directed toward getting into a good college,” he said. “Putting yourself out there and being rejected definitely isn’t pleasant, but I think it was a good learning experience for me.”
Cofer added that now that the college admissions process is behind him, he is happy with his choice and feels that most Dartmouth students share his enthusiasm for the school.
“I think people are generally really enthusiastic about Dartmouth, even more so than my friends at other schools,” he said.
Although Anastasia Kahan ’15 did not have a clear first choice, she said it was “disappointing” to have her options limited by the admissions process. At the same time, it helped her make her final decision, she said.
Kahan said she feels that Dartmouth students generally have a positive attitude about the school.
When asked to give a piece of advice to current Dartmouth students, Singh said she hopes students use their time at the College wisely and take advantage of what the school as to offer.
“Don’t waste time,” she said. “There is a lot of important work to be done in college like trying to make sense of the world and your place in it.”