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Dealing With Rejection: React, Then Regroup

Posted on 04/08/2018, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments)


This past week marked the end of a long road for high school seniors and their parents - the release of the final batch of college admission decisions. Some fortunate families received the good news that their son had been accepted to his dream school, but others learned that their daughter had been rejected by her first choice college – and possibly by her second and third as well. 

If this happened to your child, what can you say or do to help?
 

First, Deal With Your Own Emotions

Before you can help your child, you need to work through your own angst. As the airlines tell us, secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.
 
When students are rejected, parents typically experience a range of painful feelings. They may rage about the unfairness of the admissions process or blame someone at the student's high school; a counselor who didn't know the student well enough to write a detailed letter of recommendation or the soccer coach who failed to make him team captain. Most of all, they grieve the loss of an imagined future.

These emotions are most acute for the parents of applicants to hypercompetitive schools. Your daughter's credentials may clearly have been on par with - or superior to - those of the typical enrolled student at the school, yet she was denied.

You know better than anyone how much time, effort, and hard work she invested to amass those outstanding grades, SAT scores, extracurricular accomplishments, and recommendations. You witnessed her trudging home after a full day of classes and sports practices, only to grab a quick dinner and study late into the night. You saw her social life get stunted and her leisure time disappear in service of making herself a stellar applicant. After all that, didn't she deserve to be accepted?

Of course she did, and the members of the admission committee who denied her would be the first to agree. They simply don't have space in the freshman class to admit every deserving student. Consider this; if fifty people apply for a single job opening, forty-nine will be disappointed, even if every applicant is exceptional. It's as simple as that.

Furthermore, the candidate who's hired may not even be the most impressive applicant overall; he may simply bring a quality, skill set, or experience that is needed by the organization at a particular point in time. So the first step in dealing with rejection by a hypercompetitive school is to assure first yourself, and then your child, that it does not represent a judgment that he was in any way lacking. Where do you go from there?

Give yourself a little time to work through your feelings. Rant to your spouse or a friend, pound the punching bag at the gym, take a six hour nap or eat a King size Snickers bar. Just don't take too long, because if your daughter didn't get into her top choice college(s), you still have work to do - namely helping her figure out the next best plan.

Next, Regroup

If you and she did a reasonable job of constructing her college list, she applied to - and has now been accepted at - a few slightly less competitive but perfectly good schools that would be an excellent match for her interests and preferences. Now is the time to don your rose colored glasses. Help her focus on the merits of those worthy institutions as well as the distinction of having been accepted to them.

Remind yourselves why she liked each one. Go back to their websites, and if they offer a weekend for accepted applicants, encourage her to attend. Alternatively, schedule independent visits to re-examine schools and compare them.

As you go through this process, remember that you are modeling how to respond to a setback, so set a good example for your teen by adopting a positive attitude and actively working to make the best of the available opportunities.

Rejection from a dream college may be the first major disappointment in the life of your child, but it probably won't be the last. Hasn't every one of us been denied a promotion or other form of recognition we felt we deserved at some time? Life isn't always fair, and we can't necessarily control the outcome of our efforts. What we can control is how we deal with the challenges that are thrown in our path.

So after you've given yourself - and your teen - time to react to your shared disappointment - regroup and make the best of the available opportunities. Embrace the colleges that had the good sense to accept your child, and start looking forward together to a great college experience.

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Posted on 04/08/2018, by Dr. Ellen Fithian (0 comments) « Previous Entry    Next Entry »

 

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