Was Your Son Or Daughter Rejected By A Top College?

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By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog.
April is a gut-wrenching month for any high achieving high school senior applying to colleges.
After pouring heart, soul and thesaurus into college essay after college essay, the student waits anxiously for the results.

Big 9 x 12 envelope with acceptance letter and paperwork or flat #10 envelope with a rejection letter?

These days, notice is more likely to come by email or on your password protected section of the college’s website. Your student logs in and cheers exultantly . . . or groans in pain.

Watching From the Sidelines

Parenting your teen through this process is like watching him or her nervously step up to bat in a softball game for the first time. Is it a home run, or a single or an out? Receiving the acceptance letter feels like a home run to win the State Championship .

But, oh, the rejection letter (strike out in the bottom of the 9th inning) hurts deeply inside no matter how gently it is worded. It feels so final.

Making matters worse is the fact that 4,158,000 babies were born in 1990 (US Census Data). This is the largest number of children born since 1960. More students are applying to college; and more of those are applying to top colleges. Harvard received over 27,000 applications for Fall 2008!

So, how does a parent help a daughter or son through this?

Telling your student not to feel rejected will probably fall flat, especially if your teen has begun to visualize himself there. What do you do?

Try Diverting Attention Instead

Help your teenager focus on the good news. Spend time looking at the packages from colleges that accepted your student. Stress what a tremendous effort your son or daughter made to get these results.

Banish all blame from the conversation. If you hear your high schooler mutter, “If only I . . .” stop them from saying anything more. No amount of anguished blame will change the results. It may be trite saying, but it is true nonetheless — “when one door closes, another one opens.”

Help your student look for the door that’s opening. Talk about the positive features of the colleges that accepted your student. What is unique? Which has the most classes and activities that fit your teen’s goals and interests?

Creative Admissions

Some colleges have gotten creative and are offer acceptances for the Spring in addition to the Fall semester. University of California at Berkeley offered that to a friend of ours last year. It is a creative alternative that turned out great for our friend. He got into one of his top choice schools, just not in the Fall. Berkeley also had a special program for Spring admits in the Fall semester so that our friend could work on required courses. It worked out just right.

Then, there are waiting lists.

More students will be offered waiting list status this year than before. Usually college admissions directors can predict how many students will enroll in a given year. But, 2008-2009 is rather unusual so the waiting lists will be larger than before.

The decision to stay on the waiting list is more difficult. It depends on the other acceptances and financial offers your son or daughter has received. Just how interested is your child in that college that put him/her on the wait list?

If the answer is VERY interested, the student should immediately let the school know by returning the postcard or completing the electronic form. It is a good idea to follow this up with a letter to the Director of Admissions. The letter should should be as specific as possible with reasons why the student is still very interested in that particular school. For example, explain which particular courses or programs the student is interested in at the waiting list college.

Your high school guidance counselor can help here, too, by forwarding the latest set of grades to demonstrate the effort the student is making in school and sending additional glowing recommendations from a particular teacher. Your guidance counselor is also a resource for evaluating the the offers from the colleges which accepted your teen.

Deadline May 1

It is critical that your teen reserve a place at one of these acceptance schools by or before May 1. On the plus side, this assures that your son or daughter is going to college in the Fall. The downside is, If your teen then gets admitted from a waiting list, he/she may have to forfeit an entrance deposit (sent to the acceptance school) to go to their top choice school. The entrance fees are sizable at some colleges, but modest or non-existent at others. It is important to pay attention to them.

If, after all of these efforts, your student doesn’t get into a top choice school, there is the possibility to transfer to another school after Freshman or Sophomore year. Transferring is almost as much work as applying as a Freshman.

One of the best discussions I have seen about transferring colleges is at About.com.

There are good reasons to transfer and bad ones. You, as the parent, can help your son or daughter look at the current college experience for the signs that transferring is the right thing to do. But, it is important to distinguish between adjustment to a new environment and issues that really do need changing.

The first year of college is a major leap for your teen into a new and unfamiliar environment. Adapting to that environment is stressful, there is no question about it. Re-creating those cozy friendships and daily routines left behind in high school takes time. Until they happen, even the most mature student can feel awkward and out of place. Don’t be surprised if once those are established, your student realizes that he/she is in the right place after all.

Congratulations! You are the parent of a college student now.

© 2008 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission to reproduce this post either whole or in part. Please use the comments to request permission.


3 thoughts on “Was Your Son Or Daughter Rejected By A Top College?

  1. We panicked when one of the first responses our daughter got was an acceptance to a branch of our state university instead of the main campus. This was her safety school, and we feared for her chances at “match” schools if she was shunted off to the branch. She is top 10% of her class with numerous AP classes and a glowing resume. So I emailed one of her teachers who happened to mention that she is an alum of one of our “match” schools. She immediately emailed, faxed, and snail mailed a two-page letter to her alma mater recommending my daughter, whom she believes to be the cat’s pajamas. She also called the assistant dean of admissions. THE NEXT DAY my daughter received an email notice of her acceptance. Is this what it takes to break through the glut of applications today? I guess so, because she was turned down at the other three schools to which she applied. Her guidance counselor was SHOCKED by all of this. It is an excellent school that accepted her, but GEEZ!

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