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How to deal with college rejection

By April 1st most college applicants will know where they have been accepted, wait-listed or rejected. College rejection is especially difficult for teenagers to handle. Many upon receiving the letter that begins "I am sorry to inform you" are devastated. They have spent four years studying hard, did test prep for the SAT and ACT, joined activities and became leaders, and poured out their hearts on the applications and essays. Why wasn't that enough to get accepted?

Dealing with college rejection isn't easy for anyone, parents and students alike. High school seniors who applied to more competitive schools will probably experience more rejection than those students who applied to schools that were less difficult. But rejection still hurts. Here are a few tips to help parents and students handle those college rejection letters.

1. Let students express their emotions and listen to them. When students have their hearts set on particular colleges, rejection signifies to them that they are probably not good enough for any school. Obviously, they are going to feel upset and this is to be expected. Let them talk about it as much as they wish so their emotions are not bottled up inside. Parents should listen, not advise.

2. Put the college admissions process in perspective. For most students, this is their first experience with putting themselves out there for someone to judge. With college competition as it is, there are simply too many well qualified students applying to schools with too few spots available. As a parent, be understanding and compassionate in your conversation.

3. Admissions decisions should not be taken personally. Most of the time, students applying to competitive schools have similar grades, courses, and test scores. What often times gives one student an edge over another is nothing any student can control. If a college wants more students from the Northwest and you live in Kansas, that won't be in your favor. If they need more students on the debate team and your strength is drama, there may be other students who better fit the school's needs. Help students understand that college rejection is often subjective and can appear very random.

4. Sometimes students feel better if they contact a school that has rejected them and request a telephone conference. It is not inappropriate to ask if there was any specific reason for the rejection. It may be that a college would reconsider your application if you attended summer school or a summer probationary program. If nothing else, you are proving to them that you are genuinely interested in their school and willing to do anything to get your foot in the door. Don’t get your hopes up, but it can’t hurt.

5. Focus on your other college choices. There will be other acceptances and some may even be better options for you. Colleges want students who are resilient and this is a chance for you to demonstrate that important quality. Look at the positives that each school offers and why it might be a good fit for your personality. Consider a college visit to see how the other schools compare. Be open to opportunities and keep in mind that there are other colleges where you can have a happy and successful experience. Parents should remind students of their strengths and what they can bring to a college campus.