Few things hurt teenagers more than the sting of rejection, but in the unfair world of college admissions, being rejected must be expected. There are several ways parents can support their students in mitigating the sting of rejection:

  1. From the start, encourage students apply to a reasonable, manageable, and balanced list of schools. Managing expectations is critical in this process, and students should apply to 6-8 well-researched, great fit schools.
  2. Believe in your student’s resilience. Teens are prone to emotional outbursts, and it is ok to encourage them to “lean into” the disappointment of rejection–but only for a defined period of time. Bummed UCLA rejected you? Be sad for a day, then move on. 
  3. Remember that the majority of colleges in the country accept the majority of their applicants. There are many, many “right fit” colleges that will offer students what they are looking for. Nearly all colleges offer the same opportunities and resources. 
  4. Remind students that the process is inarguably unfair and admissions decisions should never be considered as a reflection of a student’s worth. This is a great metaphor.to help students understand their relative worth.
  5. Once a student has been denied, MOVE ON! It’s not psychologically healthy to dwell on a rejection or to try to figure out if there is a way to convince the school to accept you. Instead, help your student focus on the options that are available to him/her. Get excited about all the other great options available to you.

We adults understand that rejection is a part of life. For many teenagers, however, a college rejection may be one of the most painful experiences in their young lives. It is up to us to help keep everything in perspective and model appropriate behaviors.