Article Excerpt: Hartford Courant Hartford,
Wednesday, April 8, 2004
When College Says No
It Doesn't Mean End Of Dreams
By KATHLEEN MEGAN Courant Staff Writer
So Yale rejected you. Harvard did, too. Or maybe it was
Boston College or the University of Connecticut. Wherever it is, your No. 1
choice has turned you down. Where do you - and your parents - go from here?
Rob Stearns - who has studied loss, defeat and recovery, and has experienced
some in his personal and professional life - urges students and their parents
to consider: "What is the win, and what is the loss? What is it you were really
Most people, he contends, want to attend college to increase their probability
of having a healthy, happy, rewarding life, an existence that will let them
grow to their fullest potential.
"While it's true that you wanted to go to Dartmouth," said Stearns, author of
"Winning Smart After Losing Big," "going to Emory does not diminish your
chances for a happy, productive life. There are many paths to the same
"I don't believe there is a statistical correlation between happiness and
productivity and whether you go to Harvard, Yale or Lehigh."
Nicole Eichin of College Coach, a college advisory service in Newton, Mass.,
said kids who have been rejected need to refocus on their backup schools, which
hopefully they have. She suggests attending the open houses for accepted
students to help them shift their attention and begin to weigh the pros and
cons of their options.
"The most important thing is not dwelling on the rejection," said Eichin. "The
most important thing is to redirect, to move on."
A lot of schools have open houses for accepted students, Eichin said. Kids need
to go to those events and begin to think logically about the pluses and minuses
of each place that accepted them.
Sometimes it is harder for parents to do this than for kids.
Steve Pemberton, president and co-founder of Road to College, a college
advisory service in Maynard, Mass., said that when he was an admissions officer
at Boston College, he would get phone calls from parents wanting to know why
their child was denied. "They'd ask: `What could we have done differently or
better?"' Pemberton said.
"Admissions officers hold their cards close to the vest," said Pemberton. If a
kids' grades weren't high enough or his extracurriculars were weak, there may
be an easy explanation. But often, Pemberton said, it is hard to explain why a
kid with good qualifications didn't get in.
Pemberton's colleague, Chuck Hughes, who was an admissions officer at Harvard,
remembers an instance when the college admitted one twin and not the other.
Hughes tried to explain to the mother why one twin seemed more qualified than
"The mother went on a tirade," said Hughes, "about how one kid was not as
gifted athletically, about how she breast-fed them."
In short, such phone calls usually aren't satisfying and don't lead to a
reconsideration of an application unless a mistake has been made, Pemberton
said, for instance, the college basing its decision on the wrong transcript.
On the other hand, phone calls can make a difference if an applicant is on the
"If you get on the waiting list," Pemberton said, "it is the case that the
squeaky wheel is getting the oil."
If the college that put you on its waiting list is your top choice, let the
college know, Pemberton said. It may also help to have your school's college
counselor make a call.
However, he said, "You have to be leery of how hard you squeak. You can get to
the point where the squeaky wheel becomes detrimental."
For instance, don't show up unannounced at an admission officer's front door,
You might express your desire to talk again with an admissions officer by
e-mail or phone, Hughes said. If the official consents, then it's fine to stop
The main way to minimize disappointment, Hughes said, is to manage expectations
up front. If kids have a realistic idea of the competition and how their own
application compares, they are less likely to be crushed if they don't get in.
This doesn't erase the sting of rejection, but it does lessen it a bit, he
Kids - and parents - also should keep in mind that rejection is less about them
and more about the level of competition.
Many families don't realize that a "perfect storm" of competition has been
created, Pemberton said, by the convergence of several factors: the best-ever
qualified pool of students, their aggressive baby-boomer parents who help them
prepare, and the focus of all these students on the same 100 or so colleges.
Pemberton said the only way to ease the competition is to expand "the
definition of what is a good school."
He always tries to give students names of colleges they haven't considered,
places where they can get a good education, albeit without, perhaps, the cachet
of the Ivy League.
Which brings us back to Stearns.
Not getting into your school of choice, Stearns says, is really "a loss of a
"It's not a loss of what you are really seeking," said Stearns. "It's very
important for students to recognize that college is a means to an end, not an
end unto itself."