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Strategies to Minimize the Blow of College Rejection

By Nat, IvyWise Master College Counselor

It seems that every year we hear about how college admissions has become increasingly competitive. Stanford reported a 5.07% admission rate for the Class of 2018, and many other selective schools have announced record-low admission rates as well. It’s no wonder many students are stressed about their impending college applications.

With record-low percentages of students getting in, even more are being rejected. Getting a rejection from a student’s first, second, or even third choice school is difficult. In the selective admissions process, sometimes a rejection is hard to avoid, however parents and students can prepare for unfavorable admissions news by planning ahead and taking appropriate steps after decisions come in.

At the end of the day, if the student has done a good job with their college search process, there will be success. In short, the easiest way for parents to help students cope with rejection is to prepare in advance so that there is also success come decision time.

Students need to only apply to schools that they would be happy to attend. If they haven’t found any, they haven’t searched long or carefully enough. One of the great things about this country is that we have more options than any other country for higher education. For a student to say that he or she hasn’t found a school that he or she would love to attend that is a likely or target school is a poor reflection on his or her research efforts considering the choices.

Set Realistic Goals
There is nothing wrong with applying to a few reach schools, but be careful in spending time applying to “out of reach schools.” We hope that all applicants will apply to a balanced list of schools, and that the schools will be categorized in reach, target and likely categories.

Anecdotal data shows that students that apply to a smaller number of schools are more successful for a variety of reasons, one being because they can spend more time filling out each application as opposed to diluting their efforts by applying to too many schools (more than 10-12).

How to Handle Rejection
Rejection is a part of life. Everyone who has tasted success has also tasted rejection. This doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Parents can be supportive by giving students the appropriate amount of time to take the difficult news, but they should also not let students sulk for any longer than needed.

For many teens, the worst part of rejection is telling peers they didn’t get in or where they are going (especially if others will question why someone of their caliber did not get into a ‘better’ school). When dealing with a rejection it’s important to keep things in perspective and to not allow one or two letdowns to overshadow other successes.

If a student is dealing with a rejection here’s what to do next:

  • Allow time for mourning. It’s okay to take some time to feel disappointed. Students may need some space and time to process, so let them have it.
  • But don’t dwell. While it’s okay to take some time to feel sad, students shouldn’t spend all their time sulking. After an appropriate amount of time has passed, remind him or her that it’s time to move on and focus on the institutions that did grant admission.
  • Focus on where they did get in. Students should go back and look at past research, compare financial aid packages, and consider the factors that prompted them to apply in the first place in order to choose where they want to enroll. A student may have an idea of his or her “second” choice, but it’s still good to weigh all other offers of admission. After a rejection, a student’s feelings about the other institutions he or she applied to may have changed.
  • Stay positive! As I said before, rejection is a part of life. If students planned ahead and applied to a wide range of schools, any of which they would be happy to attend, then they will be attending a great-fit college. Focus on the journey ahead and get excited about all the new opportunities come fall.

Click here to learn more about Nat and watch his introductory video!