Here's one cheery thought for
students coping with rejection letters from colleges this week: You're not
Not did more students than ever
apply to college this year, but decisions by Harvard, Princeton and the
University of Virginia to cut early-action programs increased competition
during the regular cycle, according to college consultant Michele Hernandez. In
fact, Hernandez says, she anticipates that this year's admissions season will
produce "the lowest admit rates in history" at some of the country's
"You have to comfort yourself
that this has been the perfect storm of admissions years," says Hernandez,
president and founder of Vermont-based Hernandez College Consulting. She
advises her clients to focus their attention on schools where they were accepted
and banish the notion that big-name schools are the only places they could be
happy. "Forget about the Ivy League," she says. "Don't obsess
with the name brand. You can't really mope for your whole life."
In Pictures: Eight Tips For Handling Rejection
Feelings of isolation and despair
are typical accompaniments to rejection, according to Elayne
Savage, a communication coach and author of Don't
Take It Personally: The Art of Dealing with Rejection.
Parents should encourage their children to hash out complex emotions in
conversations with other adults or capture them in words in a journal or
blog--and they should be careful not to intensify those emotions by projecting
their own disappointment onto their children.
"It's going to feel like they
are the only person going through it," Savage says. "In families,
anxious feelings can get passed around from person to person. So, if the parent
is reliving past disappointments and rejections, and as tension builds, the
teen may be picking up, absorbing, the parent's
What makes college-related rejection
worse than typical rejection--such as from a romantic interest or a prospective
employer--is the number of people hungrily anticipating the decision.
"Rejection is proportionate to
the amount of emotional investment we've made. So the letters come in, and you
didn't get in, and your mother, father, grandparents, counselors at school, your
coach and your SAT coach are asking, 'Did you get it?'" says Brenda Wade,
a San Francisco-based family psychologist for the Today show. "With young people, you always have to hold out
the opportunity that there's more to come. Because they live
so much in the moment."
Some experts urge students to visit
all the schools where they've been accepted and compile a list of their
positive attributes, while others emphasize the possibility of transferring if
a student is still unhappy after freshman year at another college.
Most important is to avoid the
temptation to wallow in painful feelings, according to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale and author of Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free
of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life. There are
two distinct phases that follow any rejection, Nolen-Hoeksema
says. The first is re-appraisal, when students put a positive spin on a
negative experience; the second is problem-solving, when students take action
in order to forget feelings of futility and sadness.
Seeking feedback on your application
and suggestions for future improvement from guidance counselors and college
admissions officers are two concrete ways to turn rejection into useful
Above all, though, parents and
students alike should struggle to maintain some perspective. "Don't judge
your child's success in life by the schools ... they did or didn't get
into," says Chuck Hughes, a former Harvard admissions officer and founder
of RoadToCollege.com. "A child's success in
[his or her] career is going to be defined by their work ethic, by their
intelligence, and by their ability to overcome adversity."
Now that's a message to print out
and tack to the refrigerator as the fateful envelopes, both fat and thin, fill maiboxes this week.