Applying for College: Dealing with Acceptance or Rejection
And the Winner Is...
This is the time of year when high school corridors vibrate with the ecstatic squeals of those who got accepted into the college of their choice. But is there anxiety underneath the happiness? The hallways are also peopled with those who were rejected. What do you say to them? How can you support your child, no matter what the outcome?
A Parent's Joy -- and Worry
As a parent whose child has been accepted, your happiness may be short-lived. You know this moment should be high-spirited, but worries accompany the joy. You expected more financial aid. You'll have to work until you're 80 to pay off the loans. You feel that you can't let your child sense your fear of not being able to afford the tuition. You attempt to reassure yourself: "We'll work it out somehow. Everyone finds a way, right?"
The Agony of Rejection
It's virtually impossible to comfort your child when she's been rejected by a college she desperately wanted to attend. Telling her she will most probably enjoy one of the "safety schools" she's been accepted to offers her little solace. Encouraging her to excel academically her first year and transfer to her dream school will be met with similar discontent. She'll listen later, when the hurt has lessened. What's needed now is your compassion and your ability to offer an encouraging, hopeful, non-patronizing picture of her immediate future.
Public Joy, Private Fears
For all but the sublimely self-assured, the initial excitement of a desired college acceptance is soon followed by some unsettling, frightening questions: Can I make it in college? What if I'm not smart enough? Do I really want to go to college or am I going to please my parents? What if I hate it? What if I can't make friends? Will I get really homesick?
Against the public background of jubilation and congratulations, it's difficult for your child to give voice to these fears and concerns. It's terribly disturbing to feel alternately confused, elated, and petrified. And, oh yes, then there's the part about leaving home, maybe never to return, except for brief visits. It's a time like no other. It's the beginning of a coming of age.
As parents, we must be acutely aware of the considerable uncertainties and insecurities our child is experiencing at this moment. Name her fears. Help pick up the pieces of shattered dreams. Tell her you believe in her. Hoot and holler! Celebrate her life.
More on: College