By Liz Jackson
The middle and end of December can be stressful times for so many reasons! Some students are preparing for and taking semester exams; some are preparing for holiday travel. Adding to the stress is that many colleges notify early action and early decision applicants about whether they have been admitted. So, it is no surprise that emotions are running high right now with your seniors! Of course, we hope that they get happy news from the schools where they applied. But, in case the news wasn’t quite what you wanted, here are some tips about what to do next:
First, if a student has been deferred from a college (as opposed to denied), then their application will be re-considered again in the regular application round. And while it can be frustrating to have to continue to wait for a final decision, there are some things students can do to continue to demonstrate interest in the college and improve their chances of admission in the spring. Take a look at our post from last year, with some tips on how to handle a deferral.
If, on the other hand, the news was less encouraging, and your student was denied at their early school(s), there are a couple of steps that are important to take. First, the logistical: make sure that your student is applying to a balanced list of colleges in the regular decision round. If it seems like they perhaps didn’t include enough “likely” schools during the first round of applications, be sure they don’t make the same mistake and add some to the list. There are plenty of colleges that have regular admission deadlines in mid-January or even February.
Second, the emotional: Rejections sting. There is no way around it, really, and so it’s ok to take some time to feel sad, angry, or whatever other feelings come your way. One thing that can be helpful to keep in mind is that just about anyone who has ever succeeded at something has also failed first, too. One of my favorite resources ever was produced by Harvard’s Bureau of Study Counsel, and it is a publication called “Reflections on Rejections.” It is a series of essays by scholars and professionals telling the story of how they were rejected from something important, and how they responded. You can take a look here, and see that getting bad news puts you in pretty good company.
And finally, remember that, while the content of your application was within your control, your application is only a small sliver of a description of who you are, and the decisions college admissions offices make are completely out of your hands. In fact, decisions are sometimes driven more by institutional priorities for the college than by the quality of the applications submitted. Of course, this may not make the bad news any easier to swallow, but it does help to know that a rejection isn’t a sign that something is wrong with your application or with you.
I am often reminded of a story from several years ago, when I worked at a private school in Boston. Two best friends had radically different college application processes–one was admitted to her Early Decision school, and the other was denied to almost all of the colleges where she applied. But what I remember was that, the following year when both of them came back to school to visit their former teachers, they were both in love with their colleges and having incredible experiences.
I hope you can take comfort in knowing that you will find your path, and it will be an amazing educational opportunity.