Rejected? Accepted? Handling College Admission Decisions
Parents can help their high school seniors put college admissions decisions in perspective.
Research shows that nine out of 10 students get in to their first or second choice college. — The College Board
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.