Emily McNally and Elyssa Kennedy

With seniors committing to colleges today for National Decision Day, The Talon looked into a college season tradition expanded by a few MVLA seniors this year. In an effort to place a positive light on often painful rejection letters, a handful of students ran college rejection Instagram pages filled with dozens of entries from their peers.

MVLA seniors unite peers one college rejection at a time

May 1, 2021

Spring is in full swing with birds chirping and flowers blooming. It’s also the season most seniors receive a surge of life-changing college decision letters — rejections, acceptances and everything in between. March and April can be especially stressful as their long-awaited choices are finally laid out before them.

Aware of their peers’ rising stress levels, a few Los Altos High School and Mountain View High School seniors, who’ve preferred to remain anonymous, started college rejection pages on Instagram in March. The two accounts, @lahsrejections and @mvhs21rejections, aim to lessen the hit of rejection letters for MVLA seniors and challenge the common perspective that receiving them means failure.

MVHS admins revamp a senior tradition

The idea originated from a single wooden bulletin board in the science quad on the MVHS campus where a handful of seniors would typically rush to pin their rejection letters for all to see. With the board rendered inaccessible during quarantine, the MVHS page admins recreated the tradition virtually to connect the class of 2021. Their revamped version allowed students to send screenshots of their rejection emails and have them anonymously posted on the account.

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Trying to find positivity in the unpleasant news, MVHS students sent in dozens of their rejections, often a couple per person. Some students even deliberately whitened out portions of their letters to turn them into “acceptances” all in good fun.

Looking back on the positive impact the account has had on others, the MVHS admins couldn’t be more appreciative of the participation and support from dozens of their peers.

“It’s really cool to see that people trust you enough to send you this vulnerable document,” one of the admins said. “It feels good to know that you’re not the only one who got rejected. I’m just really glad that people feel comfortable and want to share this [experience] with others.”

LAHS admin adds humor from the captions

A couple of weeks later, inspired by the MVHS account, an LAHS rejections page mysteriously popped up. With a steady flow of rejection letters, this admin also cracked lighthearted jokes about the colleges in each of her posts’ captions. She, too, wanted to rebrand this traditionally stressful time into one everyone could laugh about.

In early April, the LAHS admin seized her chance when Ivy League schools released their decisions. Ivies are notorious for their prestige and low acceptance rates, often classified as “reach” schools. Anticipating the wave of rejections, the LAHS admin encouraged followers to send in their letters, so together they could post from all eight schools and achieve the “Ivy Collection.”

“It created a sense of unity for seniors,” she said. “By making this account, [I hope I helped] people relate to each other more. Seeing others getting rejected to the same schools softens the blow of disappointment, and you can joke about it.”

Behind the humor she brought to @lahsrejections, the LAHS admin also shared her own experiences with the toxicity of the college process and how difficult it was for her to go through it while separated from her peers. Even though she wishes to have opened her decision letters with her friends by her side, running the account helped her feel less alone.

On the flip side, one of the MVHS admins found it much less stressful to receive college decisions in distance learning than at school. She remembers the stress she felt as a junior listening to seniors worry about their futures prior to the pandemic. Now at home, she appreciated the tranquility of not spending hours a day surrounded by peers constantly discussing their college decisions.

Admins express their full support

Even though both LAHS and MVHS admins have experienced similar feelings of disappointment akin to their classmates, running the accounts has helped them refocus on their pages’ guiding message: Rejections are not everything.

“They don’t matter,” the MVHS admin said. “They don’t define you. You’re going to forget about them. It doesn’t mean anything about you, your intelligence, your worth or how hard you worked.”

The LAHS admin echoed their sentiments and emphasized that rejections can instead be viewed as “redirections.”

“I know that seniors have heard it a million times, but I really think that you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be,” she said. “You’ll always end up where you’re meant to be.”

As the 2021 college decision season has come to a close, both accounts have stopped posting, but they hope that their pages will leave a positive impact on students as they finish high school and continue their journey wherever it takes them.

Since today is National Decision Day, both accounts wish for the best for all the soon-to-be high school graduates.

“I hope you go wherever you think you’d be happiest,” the MVHS admin said. “No matter where you end up, I’m confident you have an incredible future ahead of you.”

“Congratulations to everyone on making it through this tough year, and I would like to [remind you] that you’re more than an acceptance or rejection,” the LAHS admin said.

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