My son is waiting to hear from colleges. It’s a vulnerable, tense time for everyone and 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 gets accepted to several and doesn’t have a first choice?
The waiting period can sometimes be the hardest part of applying to colleges. Researching, filling out applications, visiting campuses–it all leads up to the final letter of admission or rejection. It can be a tense time in any household, but it’s important to keep spirits high and not focus solely on checking the mail or online portal all day long.
The reality is—what’s done is done. You cannot magically go back to your teen’s tenth-grade year and fix that chemistry class, or take away mono he or she had in grade 11 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 bottom line is that college is competitive. College is a business. Thousands of students are vying for the same spot that your son or daughter is trying to earn. Again—another reason why starting the college search before senior year is helpful and productive.
Here are four tips to consider as you patiently wait for 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 this a constant topic of conversation at the dinner table or any chance you get. Stressing and analyzing over what “should have been done” 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. Empower your teenager
Do not open the admission decision letter. This is a critical time in your teenagers life, and it is their responsibility and right to see the admission decision. I once had a mother tell me that she had been hiding her daughter’s denial letter from a particular college for two months because she wasn’t sure what to do. This was inappropriate on so many levels. Bottom line: Your son/daughter is the one who should face the letter–regardless if it is a positive or negative decision. Being able to handle acceptance and rejection is all part of life and this is just one more lesson your teenager is learning.
3. Do not pressure based on what you want
Chances are, the time spent researching, visiting, and applying to colleges may have left your teen 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 are hoping he or she gets into a particular one.
4. Weigh the decision
Choosing which school to attend after all letters have come in is a crucial stage. There are several factors at stake. My suggestion is to help your teen create an organized list of pros and cons for each admitted institution. Factors such as cost, location, distance from a major city, major options, student body size, research opportunities, internship availabilities, post-graduate opportunities, study abroad, student to faculty ratio should all be considered. Did any of the schools offer your teenager a merit-based scholarship?
Be mindful of when colleges require an enrollment deposit, so your teen does not miss out!
Colleges will typically state their requirements for merit aid on their website. If this is not readily available, then just give the admissions office a call. Keep in mind that private universities may sometimes have more merit-aid flexibility than public institutions.