Countdown to College: handling disappointing admission news - The Buffalo News
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Countdown to College: handling disappointing admission news

December was a tough month for many high school seniors. Early decision and early action notifications for many colleges were released around Dec. 15.

Students who applied to any of these early admission programs were notified that they were either: accepted, denied or deferred. Being deferred means that their applications will be pushed into the regular decision pool, and they will receive notification in March.

With the holidays here, teenagers who have been rejected or deferred are not looking forward to the inquisitive questions or concern from well-meaning relatives.

Accepting their new reality, regrouping and then relaunching their college application process to meet many of the Jan. 1 deadlines is also not a welcome thought.

Consoling the rejected and advising the deferred is a tough role for a parent. It is even tougher for most kids who had to face their peers back at school the day after the big releases. Social media only adds to the disappointment as they see their friends and their friends’ parents boasting and posting of their successes. If you have a child who was deferred or rejected, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The entire college admissions process often echoes teenage relationship drama. Students flirt with a college, they visit and show interest. Colleges “tease” them with mailings, emails, etc., to encourage them to apply. Then, the tables turn.

When students are applying they need to demonstrate their love and commitment and the college sits in the power seat, wielding control of their fate. Then comes the breakup, i.e., the rejection or the deferral, with the worst part being that it’s public and impersonal. The colleges aren’t returning the students’ affections and now the student needs to fall in love with another college right away.

How can you help?

• Don’t discount their sadness, but at the same time, don’t encourage them to wallow for more than a few days. Parental platitudes abound here from the semi-spiritual – “things happen for a reason,” to several of the all-knowing – “You can’t always get everything you want.” “This is one of life’s lessons and it’s good to learn it now.” “It’s not the end of the world. It will be OK.” These aren’t what they want to hear, but you need to be supportive.

• Explain that colleges are responding to institutional priorities and a rejection should not be viewed as a personal failure.

• Help students reprioritize their college needs and wants and review their college list.

• Be enthusiastic about the other colleges students have applied to, emphasizing that they, too, are good fits.

• Assist them with the organization of their future application timelines, i.e., what needs to get done immediately and what can wait.

• Take the time over the Martin Luther King weekend and/or spring break to visit a new college or revisit colleges that may now be deserving of a second look.

• Begin researching scholarship opportunities at colleges where they’ve already been accepted and through your high school guidance office.

• As important as college selection is, the truth is that it is what they do in college – any college – that will make them happy and lead to successful careers.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit

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