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Helping Your Kids Deal With College Rejections

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JLP Staff

Teens & College / / December 01, 2016

 

Every college student anxiously waits for a thick acceptance envelope to arrive in the mail, but not all students are so lucky. Whether you're looking at a disappointing rejection letter from your child’s dream school  or an unexpected no from a “safety” school , rejection provokes complex emotions. As a parent, you can help your child digest the news and readjust to his or her new horizons by providing a strong support system and employing some smart parenting strategies.

Let Your Child Feel the Pain

Image via Flickr by Wineblat Eugene - Portraits

Though you and your child will eventually get past this rejection, the first thing you need to do is let your child feel the pain. Give him or her a few days to accept the disappointment. Let your child know that you understand where he or she is coming from You can't move past the situation without first giving your child a chance to readjust his or her view of things.

Once you've given your child some time to come to terms with the rejection, you can move on to the next steps in the process, encouraging him or her to move forward.

Reframe the Rejection

Most students personalize a rejection letter, seeing the news as a clear rejection of themselves as individuals. Social media doesn't help matters when students are bombarded with news of friends' acceptances. Help your child reframe the news and see it in a more realistic light.

Most schools receive applications from far more students than they can admit. From this pool, they'll attempt to select a diverse range of people who will help them build a strong student body and meet their institutional needs. Depending on who else applied, some promising math whizzes might be turned away simply because the school needs to fill out its English program. Help your student see rejection not as an indication of his or her own limits but as a sign of the school's unfortunate limitations instead.

Highlight Other Schools

While you may have had your sights set firmly on your first-choice school, it's crucial that you now expand your horizons and give due consideration to your child's other options. Though your student may not be attending a coveted program, that doesn't mean that he or she won't go to college at all or can't still have a satisfying experience.

If you have acceptance letters from other schools, it's important to highlight these. Revisit the schools that your student did get into, and delve deeper into the pros and cons of each one. If you have multiple acceptance letters to choose from, turn the focus to comparing these schools. If you're left with a single acceptance, focus on the pros of that institution.

Consider Alternate Options

If your child is in the unfortunate position of having no acceptance letters, don't give up! Help your student explore alternate educational or career paths. Perhaps a year abroad is in order. You can also explore internships or volunteer opportunities that could strengthen your child's college application for a later semester. Many students don't know what they want to do with their lives at this age, so turn this into a valuable opportunity to explore interests and aptitudes through hands-on experience.

Talk About Future Opportunities

For young adults, one disappointing rejection can seem like the beginning of a long path of continued rejections. Highlight ways that other people have dealt with similar setbacks and have overcome them.

Personal stories from your own life or the lives of close friends and relatives are your best ammunition. Lacking these, turn to major public or historical figures. Warren Buffet, for example, was turned down by Harvard Business School, and successful entrepreneur Ted Turner received rejections from both Harvard and Princeton. Examples like these prove that college acceptance is far from the only determining factor for lifelong success.

Focus on What Matters

Academic prowess is just one of many valuable qualities. The last year of high school puts a heavy focus on academia, but you should focus on exploring your student's other talents now. Perhaps your child is generous and people-oriented; you could encourage rewarding volunteer opportunities. Let your budding artist try showing his or her work, or have your actor audition for a community theater. Start exploring to see what other talents are waiting to emerge.


Receiving a college rejection letter is never fun, but it doesn't signify the end of your child's future. It's simply a new turn in the road that can lead to something unexpected, yet exciting.

About The Author
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Joan Lunden’s in-house research and writing team works with Joan to create content that complements her focuses and the interests of her fans. The team is dedicated to creating a thriving community through content and conversations, and hopes their work, like Joan’s, can make a difference in the lives of her readers everywhere.

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