10 Ways of Handling the Other March Madness: College Acceptances and Rejections

March madness is here. Anxiety is in full swing.
Surprising to many, the craziness has nothing to do with basketball and brackets.  Students and parents are thinking of college admissions. It’s around that time acceptance letters are on their way – or will soon be on their way. Parents need to be the supportive rock, even if they’re suffering from anxiety, too.   This time is about the student; it is not about the parent.

How to Help Your Child Deal with College Admissions Disappointment and Fear

1. Lay the groundwork.  Before the acceptance letters come, parents need to let their child know how proud they are of him or her for getting through high school and wanting to go to college. Make sure children know they’ll have a great experience no matter where they go.

2.  Stay supportive.  After the letters arrive, whether a child gets into a first choice college or not, parents need to stay supportive. This is a hard time for a student whether they get into their first choice college or not. For students who get rejected, this may be the first time they’re dealing with major disappointment. A parent’s job is to stop this from damaging their self-esteem. For students who get in, after the initial euphoria, they’ll start thinking about what going to college really means. Leaving home, leaving friends, leaving a comfortable routine, having to find themselves, and make their own way is difficult. Understandably, this may feel overwhelming.

3.  Talk it out. If your student is rejected from the first choice college, allow your child to vent their emotions. Talk about it and turn it into a teachable moment. Be sensitive and acknowledge the pain of disappointment. Then help your child, one, accept that he or she didn’t get in and, two, move forward with the opportunities that do present themselves.

4. Let your child know that getting into a first pick college is important, but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world. Let them know you won’t love or like them any less and they shouldn’t love or like themselves any less either. College is a step on a long road. It’s a big step, but college is not the final destination. Let your student know a lot of the college admission process was out of his or her control. While the process is fair and thorough, college admissions are subjective. Perhaps even more than most students and parents realize. High scores aren’t the only thing that counts. Subjectivity comes into play as admissions officers compare the applications. Maybe the band really needed a new bassoon player.

5. Once all the results are in, call or meet with your student’s International College Counselor advisor, as needed.  An expert college counselor can go over the pros of the schools a student was accepted into and there are a number of colleges still accepting applications.

6. Don’t let your child take denial personally. Someone at the college just didn’t think your child was the right fit at the time. Your student may actually be better off someplace else and it’s just not apparent right now.

7. Remind your student to thank the people around him/ her that made a college acceptance possible.  Every student’s success had a lot to do with a parent driving hours and hours of carpool, a teacher writing a thoughtful college recommendation, a coach staying a little bit longer after practice to go over a drill, and a principal making sure the student got the classes he/she needed.  No child gets into college on his/ her own.

8. Celebrate the college acceptance letters your child does get. Getting into any college is something to celebrate. Talk through how the child will let his/her friends know.  Will their happiness lead to greater disappointment for others?  How would they like to be told of good news by their peers? How should they handle good news for them, but also the disappointment around them?

9. Think to the future.  Although jitters are normal, really worried students should relax a bit by knowing that he/she can always transfer. Our recommendation is to keep this as a back pocket option and not as a goal. If a student goes to a college with the intent of transferring, he or she won’t be able to enjoy the full college experience they can have. Many students find that once they settle in, they’re actually very happy.

10. Do something nice. Students are at the end of a long journey. When all the letters are in, celebrate the end of this intense time.  Go out for a nice dinner as a family, or give a student a meaningful gift. Make this time positive.   We wish all of our students luck with the admissions decisions. No matter what happens, after the madness, there will be a calm. _____________________________________________________________________  

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS:   This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 300 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process. For more information on International College Counselors or to contact an expert college counselor, please visit http://www.internationalcollegecounselors.com.