So Your Kid Was Rejected From Their Dream College

Letters roll in and celebrations are blowing up the Internet . For high school students awaiting a response from the colleges they applied to, this is the most nervous time of the year.

There will be joy, but there will be many disappointments. Here’s what you can do to help your teen get through the pain of rejection from their dream school (or schools):

Treat it like a breakup

If you feel like twittering “Climb!” or “Stay positive!” or “Everything happens for some reason” – no. Let the baby mourn. Refusal sucks. I know it. You know it. But to a teenager who may not have experienced it in large quantities yet, it can seem overwhelming. If your student wants to lock himself in his room and scream into his pillow, that’s perfectly fine – even great.

You should also avoid expressing resentment at school by saying, “How could they not accept you? You are great, and they are clearly out of their minds. ” Even if I feel this way (I understand), it does nothing for the student other than to make him believe that something or someone outside of him is responsible for his ultimate failure or success. If necessary, allow yourself to release the air – just do not do it in the presence of the child.

However, say something. Silence can make your child think you are disappointed in him and not in him. Now there is no need for any deep parental speeches, it is quite simple: “I am very sorry. I know how much you wanted it. I love you and I am here for you. ” And then maybe cook his favorite food for comfort and allow him to eat it in dull silence in his pajamas.

Encourage them to disconnect.

While it might seem like everyone is in awe of the letters that open, remind your teen that what she sees is a digital tape with highlights, a tiny snippet of the whole picture. Ask her to close any tweets that say, “# UPENN2022, beat it !!!!!” and go outside for a run or a swim. Maybe you can even host a tech-free family day at the climbing gym or dining room. Your child may protest, but it’s worth it to give her some space. Social media can exacerbate negative emotions, and it’s best for teens to shut off as much as possible during this vulnerable time.

Put things in perspective

Help your teen understand that she is not alone – not even close. You can look at admission statistics to prove that going to college is difficult and sometimes insane. (Last year, 8.3% of applicants were admitted to Brown, 5.8% to Columbia, and 5.2% to Harvard.) Dr. Cat Cohen, founder of the consulting firm IvyWise, says colleges often need “comprehensive a class of specialists ”and that“ students cannot control what a particular school is looking for in a given year – astrophysicist, a choir singer ”. So it has a lot to do with luck. Nothing personal – maybe your teenager was not the swordsman the school was looking for this year.

Also, while it may be difficult to see the big picture right now, what a student goes to college will not do or break her life, and she should know that. The idea that the path to success is narrow is “a common misconception,” writes William Stixrud, co-author of The Self- Propelled Child . In a Time article titled “It’s Time to Tell Your Kids It Doesn’t Matter Where They Go to College,” he explains:

So why don’t we tell our kids the truth about success? For a start, only a third of adults have a four-year college degree . Or that you will be on a par in terms of income, job satisfaction, and life satisfaction , whether you go to an elite private college or a less selective public university. Or that there are many professions that Americans do for a living, many of which do not require a college degree.

As someone who has been dropped from my top four schools, I can tell you that a university’s brand is less important than a lot of things, including how well you communicate with your professors, how well the school’s programs fit your future goals, and whether you are looking for you internship (for me internships were everything). It’s not really about college, but what you think about college. Sometimes, when it comes to schools, it’s even better to be the big fish in the small college pond, as you’ll have more opportunities to stand out.

Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell and Harvard expert Tony Wagner say colleges are broken anyway and believe that the future of education lies in nontraditional, hands-on courses.

Help me come up with plan B (or C, or D)

You want to lead your teen to a place where he is in control again, and finally you can ask yourself, “Okay, now what?” Once he arrives (remember, it can take a few days of punching pillows and bowls of macaroni cheese), you can help him come up with a new plan. If there are schools that have accepted him, take him on a tour. Don’t just listen to the script from the guide – talk to current students at random, eat in the cafeteria, and listen to a lecture if you can. It is likely that the moment you both feel energized on campus will feel relieved, and maybe even at home.

Of course, if he didn’t go to any school (and this happens), you will have to help him weigh other options. He can appeal (I know a couple of cases where this worked) or check schools that accept late applications or have continuous admissions . He can also go to community college and go to university, or take a leave of absence from work, internship, or travel. His decisions should be based on his values, what he sees in his future, and the financial situation of your family.

Being rejected by the dream school is a big blow, no doubt about it, but understand that your teen will be rejected many, many times in life if he does it right. Help him broaden his vision of success and he will definitely achieve it. Welcome to adulthood.

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