How to Navigate College Admissions Decisions Excitement and Disappointment

Navigating college decisions

As winter ice thaws and spring flowers begin to bloom, colleges are—or will be soon— notifying applicants of their college admissions decisions.
Now especially, parents need to be supportive, even if they’re suffering from anxiety, too. This time is about the student, not the parent.
Below are some tips to help with college admissions decisions from International College Counselors — how to manage expectations and disappointments:

1. Set the tone. 

Before the college admissions decisions begin to arrive, let your child know how proud you are of them for reaching this important milestone. They’ve just about made it through high school and will soon be off to college. Emphasize that you know they’ll have a great experience no matter where they go.

2. Show your support.

 This is a difficult time whether your child gets into their first-choice college or not. For students whose applications are turned down, this is likely the first time they’re dealing with major disappointment. Do not let this damage their self-esteem: remind them that the college had far too many applicants than spaces. For students who do get in, after the initial euphoria, many start thinking about what college actually entails: leaving home, leaving friends, leaving a comfortable routine, and making their own way. Understandably, this may feel overwhelming.

3. Let your student vent. 

If your student’s application is denied, allow your child to voice their emotions. Maintain an open dialogue and turn this experience into a teachable moment: Continue to be sensitive and acknowledge the hurt that comes with disappointment. Then help your child move forward with the opportunities that do present themselves. But not that first day or even first week. Let the disappointing news settle.

4. Keep things in perspective.

 While getting into a first choice college can feel euphoric, remind your child know that it’s not the end of the world if they do not get in. College is a big step on a long road, but it is certainly not the final destination. There are many side streets and detours along the way. Remind your student that a lot of the college admission process was out of their control. For better or for worse, college admissions is subjective, perhaps even more than most students and parents realize.

5. Remind your child not to take it personally if their application is denied. 

The decision isn’t personal. Someone at the college just didn’t think your child was the right fit at the time—or they did think the match was there, but the college does not have the space to admit all the students they’d like to. Your student may actually be better off someplace else, though it’s just not apparent right now.

6. Thank those who helped your student on their journey. 

Every student’s success is in large part thanks to a teacher writing a thoughtful college recommendation, a coach staying a little bit longer after practice to go over a drill, or a principal making sure the student got the classes your student needed. No child gets into college on their own.

7. Celebrate the college acceptance letters your child does get. 

Getting into any college is no easy feat! How will your child let their friends and peers know? Is this something that actually needs to go on social media? Talk through whether their happiness will lead to greater disappointment for others. How would they like to be told of good news by their peers? And—if you’d like to share it on social media, ask for their permission. It is their news, after all.

8. Know that a student can always transfer. 

Our recommendation is to keep this as a back pocket option and not as a goal. If your student goes in with the intent of transferring, they 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.

9. Do something nice. 

When all the notifications are in, celebrate the end of this intense time in whatever way works for your family. Make this time positive.

10. Call or meet with your student’s International College Counselor advisor.

Once all the results are in, you and your family can review the pros of the schools a student was admitted to. Discussions can also include any colleges still accepting applications.
We wish all of our students the best of luck with their admissions decisions!