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Advice for Parents on Managing the Dreaded College Rejection Letter

Silver Hill Hospital

As time goes by, things get harder and harder for teens.  Slogging through junior year, SATs, and college applications are all a prelude to the inevitable worry about college acceptance.  Peer pressure, self-doubt, and expectations abound.  How can we best help these kids face the likelihood of rejection from at least one if not many colleges they have worked so hard to apply to?  And what about “senioritis” – the fatigue that these kids feel in facing these challenges and the academic fall out?

Opening the mailbox and finding the dreaded “thin envelope” instead of the “big envelope” from a college of choice can be a major blow. But, according to Aaron Krasner, MD, it’s important not to let this disappointment become overwhelming. It’s a family project to manage disappointment and mindfully move on.

Dr. Krasner offers these tips for parents to help their child move past the disappointment:

Explain Why They Shouldn’t Take It Personally
College admissions are incredibly competitive, and students shouldn’t consider this decision to be a rejection of them as a person or a student. Admissions officials have tough decisions to make – they can’t accept every applicant.  Remind them about how Hollywood casting works: they need certain kinds of kids – science focused, arts focused, etc – to make up a diverse class.

Discuss Why They Shouldn’t Feel Embarrassed
Everyone is accepted to some and rejected from others – and everyone has to manage rejection as part of the college application process.  Help them to reframe rejection as a part of life because if they are putting themselves out there – a very healthy thing to do – they are going to experience rejection not just now but in the future.

Help Them Focus on the Positives
Do things to help your child get excited about the schools she did get into and the options they present for her future. “It’s for the best” is a cliché, but there is also a lot of truth to that sentiment. Many of us don’t wind up attending what we thought was our “dream school,” but still have wonderful college experiences. Give your child an example from your life when things didn’t go as hoped, but ultimately it was “for the best.”

Talk About Your Own Experiences That Demonstrate How Rejection is Part of Life
Rejection can feel painful and hurtful, but your child should be reminded that it is also an important part of personal growth. By learning to acknowledge feelings of rejection and move beyond them, they are growing and maturing. Share your own relevant experiences and discuss how they helped you mature.