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Rejected? Accepted? Handling College Admission Decisions

Parents can help their high school seniors put college admissions decisions in perspective.

Parents may be more upset than their children over receiving a "letter of denial," as colleges call them. Parents understandably want to shield their children from the pain of rejection. Despite these instincts, it's best to let a child receive and process admissions news from colleges first. It's not a good idea to make the dash to the mailbox a race, nor is it advisable to open college mail addressed to your child. Parents can, however, help put admissions decisions in perspective.


Your child may read rejection from a school as an indication that he doesn't have what it takes to succeed. You can reassure him that admissions decisions are not a judgment from society. Colleges have many reasons for rejecting students, and there is always an aspect of randomness in the process.Neither parents nor children should treat rejection as a personal failure.

Student merit is not the only factor in a school's decision. Schools also must address their own needs for a diverse population or for strength on sports teams or in specific degree programs. Neither parents nor children should treat rejection as a personal failure.


What to Do if Your Child Isn't Accepted Anywhere

What if your child hasn't gotten into any of the schools he applied to? This can occur when students apply only to very selective schools or too few schools, or if senior grades falter. This requires some reevaluation of your child's situation, but it's certainly not the end of the world. Your child can still apply to schools whose deadlines haven't passed. If circumstances such as test scores or grades have changed, he can reapply to the same school.

Check with the admissions office at the college to find out how to reapply, and encourage your child to seek advice from the high school counselor. Colleges do make mistakes, and a student can appeal an admissions decision, but these appeals are rarely successful. Finally, your child might consider attending community college and transferring to the school of his choice.


Colleges build a waiting list of students to ensure full freshman classes; they have to assume some percentage of accepted students won't enroll. This system benefits the schools, but it's hard on students and parents. If your child gets a waiting list notice, encourage him to decide whether he really wants to attend the school before he agrees to remain on the list. If he is accepted, he'll often get only a few days to decide. Also investigate the conditions attached to being wait-listed; your child may lose priority housing or financial aid options.

Comments from readers

"My child has been deferred from early admission to regular admission. What are the chances of getting accepted at this point?"
"My child has been deferred from early admission to regular admission. What are the chances of getting denied at this point? "
"I am also a mother of a 11th grader (American citizen) living abroad who is searching for a scholarship to attend college in the US. We are living now for three years abroad.He took the SAT last month an plan to do so next year again. He plans to take the GED also but I am overwhelmed by the application and financial aid processes. What to do?"
"Hi Pam M! I'm Rose, A seinor in highschool. i've already been accepted to my second chouice college on scholarship and am waiting to hear from my first. My advice is START NOW. I started looking at college applications the summer of my junior year and way before then. If your son knows where he wants to go have him look at the essay questions and start writing those now. It really helps once the process is underway. Also, have him do something this summer like an SAT prep course or a summer program at the school he wants to attened. this should give him an edga on the SAT or the college admission process."
"Hi My name is Pam M. my son is currently in the 11 grade when do i start the process for collage?"