The College Waiting Game

Parents can help their teenagers through the oftentimes stressful waiting game of college acceptance. How? Here’s how parents can help their college-bound children understand that a rejection is not personal and not a judgment on their character or abilities.

  1. STAY CALM. If parents remain calm, it is likely their children will, too. Adopt a ‘let’s wait and see’ attitude about the other applications. Let your child know that a letter of rejection does not invalidate him or her in the least, just as a letter of acceptance will not validate. Don’t treat rejection as a personal failure.
  2. STEP BACK AND LET YOUR CHILD LEAD THE PROCESS. The college waiting process is an important and anxiety-ridden time in your child’s life, but allow him or her to take ownership. This sends a clear message that you are confident in his or her ability to get through it. Stepping in and over-managing only diminishes your child’s own sense of ownership of the process and does nothing to build confidence through a challenging time.
  3. STAY FLEXIBLE. This is really the first adult decision your kids will make. You can help out by reminding them that (1) There is no one perfect school, even if they have their heart set on one; (2) If they are accepted into their second- or third- or fourth-choice school, they will still enjoy the benefits of a good education, they will meet friends, grow, and have life-changing experiences. That happens wherever we go to school. So encourage kids to stay flexible about the plan — after all, plans can change.
  4. TURN OBSTACLES INTO OPPORTUNITIES. Parents can help their children do this by reminding them of what is really important in life. That is, the kind of adult they become, their health, how they stand up to their future successes and challenges — and that this is one in many important phases of difficult decision-making that will pass and make them better equipped to face the next.



Published on: March 22, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Laura Gauld

Laura Gauld is the award-winning co-author of the book The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have and the Executive Director of Hyde Schools, whose unique character and leadership development program has been featured on 60 Minutes, the New York Times, PBS, and NPR.

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