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How Can I Support My Teenager Who is Waiting for College Decisions?

Dear Your Teen:

My son is waiting to hear from colleges and it’s a vulnerable, tense time for all of us.

As the song goes, “The waiting is the hardest part.” What can I say to my son now? And how can I help him deal with rejection or regrets like, “I should have tried harder”? Finally, any thoughts on how I can help my teen choose which school to go to if he doesn’t have a first choice?

EXPERT | Jamie Brown-Kennedy, MA

The waiting period can sometimes be the hardest part of applying to colleges. Researching, filling out applications, and visiting campuses all lead up to the final notification of admission or rejection. Waiting for college acceptance can be a tense time in any household, but it’s important to keep spirits high and not focus solely on checking the online portal all day long.

What’s done is done.

No one can magically go back to your teen’s tenth grade year and fix that chemistry class, or take away mono they had in 11th grade that caused a slight downward trend in achievement. Though it’s always great to have a “reach school,” students need to be realistic about their chances of getting in and apply to schools that best fit their academic credentials. The reality is, college is competitive. College is a business. Thousands of students are vying for the same spot as your teenager.

When You Are Waiting for College Admission Decisions:

1. Don’t dwell on it.

After ensuring that the colleges have received every last piece of documentation required for review, just sit back. Don’t make college a constant topic of conversation at the dinner table or any chance you get. Stressing and analyzing over what should have been done or what will happen is a waste of energy. Savor the time that you have left with your teenager at home this year and trust that in the end, your teen will be attending the school that is right for him/her.

2. Boost your child up.

Chances are, the time spent researching, visiting, and applying to colleges may have left your teenager feeling a little vulnerable and uneasy about the future. A lot is at stake. Make sure to highlight positive aspects of every college (even if you secretly hope they don’t get into a particular one).

3. Let your teen find out first.

This is your teen’s application. This is a critical time in their life and it is their right to be the first one to see the decision. I once had a mother tell me that she had been hiding her daughter’s denial from a particular institution for two months because she wasn’t sure what to do. This was inappropriate on so many levels. Bottom line: Your teenager should be the first one to face the decision—good or bad result aside. Being able to handle acceptance and rejection is all part of life. This is just one more lesson your teenager is learning.

When the Wait is Over:

Choosing which school to attend after all the acceptances and rejections have come in is an important stage. There are several factors at stake. My suggestion is to help your teen create an organized list of pros and cons for each institution.

Include factors such as:
✷ Cost
✷ Location
✷ Distance from a major city
✷ Potential major
✷ Student body size
✷ Research opportunities
✷ Internship availabilities
✷ Post-graduate opportunities
✷ Study abroad
✷ Student to faculty ratio
✷ Scholarships

There are many crucial points to consider before submitting the enrollment deposit. That being said, be mindful of when colleges require an enrollment deposit so your teen does not miss out. Be sure to check in with each institution.

Jamie Brown-Kennedy is a former Assistant Director of Admission at different public and private universities around the US. 

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