How to Help Teens Dealing with College Rejection Depression
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Getting rejected from anything can be disappointing, especially for teens who don’t get into their college of choice. This can lead to college rejection depression for some teens. This intense reaction can put them in a downward spiral, possibly looking to unhealthy and dangerous coping mechanisms, such as drugs and alcohol.

As we take a look at why some teens experience college rejection depression, we’re also going to provide some tips to help your teen cope when facing rejection from college.

Causes of College Rejection Depression

While some teens may be able to brush off not getting into college, it can be life-shattering for others. A teen may spiral into a college rejection depression for several reasons:

They are a Perfectionist

If your teen is a perfectionist, they have likely been working toward the goal of getting into their first-choice college. Getting rejected from that school can make them feel less than perfect, sending them into a depression. If your child feels as though school is the only area they excel, getting a rejection letter can be the ultimate letdown. They need to learn that not everyone is perfect and that everyone gets rejected at times.

Not Used to Failure

Teens who always get first place and never fail may experience college rejection depression when they don’t get into their college of choice. When rejection from college is their first taste of not getting what they want, it can be devastating.


When friends are getting into the same college that your teen was rejected from, it can lead to jealousy. This can also lead to them becoming angry and can also turn into a case of college rejection depression.

Fear of the Future

Not getting into college can spark feelings of fear in students who wonder what the future will hold now. If they had planned to go to a specific school and that is no longer an option, they may be scared of what comes next for them. They may not realize that the future still holds something special for them.

Experience Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD)

Some teens also experience rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD).[2] This is a disorder that can arise from childhood trauma. They may have experienced repeated rejection when they were younger, resulting in an extreme reaction to criticism and rejection as they get older. This can also lead to college rejection depression.

Signs of Depression

If your child has been rejected from college, and you are concerned that they are dealing with college rejection depression, here are several signs of depression to look out for[1]:

  • Feeling sad and hopeless
  • Angry outbursts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tired
  • Reduced appetite & weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling worthless
  • Body aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts

The link between rejection and suicidal thoughts is prevalent among teens. One study revealed that social and non-social rejection stressors can raise the risk of suicide attempts. The month following a major rejection stressor was noted as a dangerous zone for young adults.[3]

Helping Your Teen Deal with Rejection from College

If your teen has received a college rejection letter, there are several things you can do to help them cope with the situation:

Acknowledge the Rejection

Burying feelings surrounding your child’s rejection from college is not going to make it go away. Talk to them about their feelings. Help them understand the emotions they are feeling and why.[4]

Tell Them Not to Compare

Tell your teen not to compare themselves to others. By comparing themselves to friends and what colleges they may have gotten into, they can become even more depressed.

Avoid Self-Criticism

After receiving a college rejection letter, your child may begin to criticize their actions, thinking they did something wrong. While your teen may not know exactly why they didn’t get into their favorite college, they shouldn’t feel ashamed or be critical about what they did leading up to their college rejection letter.

Connect with Your Teen

While you may not know exactly how they’re feeling, try to connect with your teen. You can tell them that you know what rejection feels like as you try to connect with them. You can share your experiences so that they know they are not alone.

Support Them in Exploring Alternatives

If they didn’t get into “the” school, there are still other alternatives. Support them in exploring these other choices. If there were other schools they were accepted to, give those a closer look so that they know that not all hope has been lost.

Remind Them That There is More Than Their College Applications

A college rejection letter does not sum up your child’s academic ability or potential. Remind them that they are more than what is on their application. They are multi-faceted, and that should be celebrated.

Encourage Self-Care & Positive Thinking

When your child is dealing with college rejection, encourage them to take care of themselves. They also need to think positively that something good will come. They may feel as though everything is doomed because of their college rejection.

Look for Additional Support for College Rejection Depression

While being sad about a college rejection is normal, you don’t want it to lead to a mental health condition. If your teen is spiraling into depression, look for extra support. This can be a high school guidance counselor, doctor, or mental health provider. You want to get your child professional help so that their feelings don’t get worse and they don’t look to make poor choices as a result. A mental health assessment can give you insight into what your child may be feeling and dealing with.

Contact Ember Recovery

If your teen’s college rejection depression has led them to a path of substance abuse, Ember Recovery is here to help. Each program is matched to best suit each of our patients. Our team of professionals can get them the help they need to get on the path to recovery. Call us today to learn more about our wide variety of programs.