If you are the parent of a high school senior, you’ve probably spent the last few weeks and months biting your fingernails as you wait to see which colleges accept your child’s application for admission. In fact, I suspect you may be a bigger ball of nerves than your child is at this point. Let’s face it: you’ve spent the last 18 years preparing your child for this moment. Having your child accepted to the college of his or her dreams is somewhat like recognition for a job well-done. But what happens if your child is rejected? No one likes to hear that his or her child isn’t good enough, and taking it personally only adds to the pain your child is feeling. So, what can a parent do to help ease the pain of a college rejection letter? Here are some suggestions that may work well when your student walks through the door holding a rejection letter.
Parents: Remember, This Is Not About You.
Receiving a rejection letter should not be misinterpreted to represent a reflection of your parenting skills or your student’s worth. Instead of getting angry and upset, try to stay calm and look to your child for clues on how he or she is feeling. If your child is clearly upset about it, provide some space to process everything; just remind him or her that you are there if he or she needs to talk. It may take some time, but eventually your child will come to you for a comforting hug or some parental advice.
To Share or Not to Share, That Is the Question.
When my oldest son was rejected from his top choice college, I immediately called my family and shared the news. Big mistake! My son felt hurt that others knew he had been rejected. What I had failed to realize was this was his news to share (or not) and not mine. It’s tempting to contact your friends and family because you may feel a sense of disappointment, too, but always remember this is not about you. Instead, keep the news to yourself and let your child decide when it’s time to share. My son created a Facebook page where he could sound-off about being rejected. In fact, if you visit Facebook and search for “College Rejection,” you will find plenty of pages created specifically for students to vent about their recent rejections or waitlist notices. Afterall, misery loves company.
Help Find the Silver Lining.
It’s often hard to see the bright side of being rejected, but if you look closely, it’s almost always there. Remind your child that there are other options for college. Was he accepted to one of his other choices? Are there other schools on the list you can visit and consider? Did another school offer a healthy financial aid package, making it very affordable to attend? These are all things to consider when choosing another college. Also, don’t forget that getting into a particular “dream college” may still be possible. If it seems like a good idea, your child may want to consider contacting the school to find out if there were any specific reasons why he or she was rejected, and inquire about transfer options in the sophomore or junior year. This could give your student a goal to work toward and keep his or her spirits up while formulating “Plan B.”
Dealing with rejection is never easy or fun, especially when it comes to college admissions. As parents, it can be hard to remove ourselves and not take the news personally; we want the best for our children and never want to see them hurt. Unfortunately, not everyone will be accepted to first choice colleges, but that doesn’t mean your child’s dreams won’t come true at another college. In the end, finding the way to a college that fits is not always about just one school–there are many great colleges out there for all types of students, and there are usually many paths to take to get there. Help your child accept the news, adjust his or her plans, and encourage him or her to continue to seek out opportunities for the great future that most certainly awaits!
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