Get Your Teen Magazine in your inbox! Sign Up
Logo
Get Print Edition

Dealing With College Rejection: Helping Your Teenager Cope

Now that your senior has submitted their applications, the waiting for college acceptances or rejections begins. For many teenagers, dealing with college rejection can be a crushing disappointment. Your Teen asked Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, for her advice on helping teenagers handle college decisions. She shared advice that will create a healthier response to this college craziness.

4 tips to support your teenager while awaiting notification from colleges:

1. Don’t over-invest in the notion of a dream school.

Hopefully, leading up to that day, you haven’t over invested with their desire to go to a specific school. It is so important that parents don’t get caught up in their kids’ dreams and over-invest. Because it’s possible that your child may not get admitted to that dream school. And you want to hold out that possibility in your conversations. (“It’s possible you might not get in, honey, and there are so many other great schools.”)

2. Remember that there is a lot of competition.

Even if your teen met all the requirements, there are other kids out there with better grades, better qualifications. And it can be mercurial; sometimes kids who are not as good get admitted, which seems frustrating and unfair.

3. Disappointment is part of life.

Help them deal with the disappointment—(“I know it’s really upsetting, I know how much you wanted to go there”)—but convey to them that this college denial letter doesn’t determine the rest of their life.

There will be tons of rejection in life. And the kids for whom it is hardest are the ones who have not yet experienced rejection. The first time they do, it’s a real blow. I always say to parents, if your kid has a number of things they’re really, really great at, make sure they also do something they are bad at. Let them experience what it’s like to get a B or a C in a course, or not to be picked first in a sport, or to really struggle with something.

Eventually, they will get over getting rejected from college. However, if your child can’t get over it, they can always take a gap year and re-apply. That might be the right thing for some kids.

4. Remind them that they control their destiny.

There is this craziness in our culture, this idea that the name brand of your child’s college actually determines your child’s future success. If you look at the Fortune 500 companies and the CEOs who run them, very few of them went to Ivies. This idea that where you go to school is more important than who you are, or what you learn, or who you meet, is crazy.

Your teenager is the person who is going to the college, and they will make college whatever they want it to be. It’s important to convey that you believe they can go to any college and have an amazing experience.

We thought you'd also like:

Catherine Steiner-Adair

Learn more about Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair and The Big Disconnect at her website.