Tips for Parents to Help Kids Cope with College Rejection Letters

College acceptance letters can be an exciting time for high school seniors and a realization of a goal achieved. Although hard work and perseverance pay off for many, there are those seniors who receive college rejection letters. This can be a difficult time for both the student and the parent. Darby Fox, Child and Adolescent Family Therapist, shares essential tips to help parents navigate their child’s disappointment.

“Minimizing feelings of rejection should start early, ideally with the selection of colleges,” advises Darby. “While choosing a first choice school can have advantages, namely early decision opportunities, it’s important to get excited about multiple options. Parents should make sure the list of schools contains several colleges, and is not limited to the child’s top choice.”

Although multiple options increase a student’s chance for acceptance, not every student will get into their first choice school. While the child may be distraught, parents don’t need to feel powerless. Darby Fox offers these steps to help a child through a college rejection letter:

1. Validate the Situation

There is no denying that rejection hurts, and parents shouldn’t minimize the situation. Allow the child to be upset and experience the loss before moving forward. Don’t let the child dwell on the rejection, but it is important that there feeling are recognized.

2. Look at The Facts

Rejection notices are given for a variety of reasons. However, a college rejection will stir up feelings of inadequacies. To help a child overcome feeling as if weren’t good enough, show them the school’s admission statistics. This helps the student better understand that the decision wasn’t personal, even though it likely feels that way.

3. Look at the Big Picture

Parents should help their student re-access how important is it to attend that specific institution. Chances are it won’t really make a difference in their long-term goals and they will ultimately be just as happy at an alternative school.

“To help with this step make a list of schools where your child has received acceptance letters,” says Darby. “For each of those schools make a list of pros and cons. Make sure to look at the actual academic offerings of the schools – core requirements, possible majors, and special programs. Chances are the student didn’t pay much attention to this initially, if focused on a different school.”

4. Explore the Options

Once the available choices are clearly laid out, parents should make it a point to take their child to visit each school. If possible, they should go while the school is in session and wander around the surrounding community to get a better feel for the school’s environment.

“Once all the information is gathered, the best decision maker is the student’s gut,” says Darby. “Let go of all the external voices and tell them to go with where they want and feel they belong. In the end, the environment that will help the student excel is the one that promotes a sense of belonging.”

Darby Fox, Child & Adolescent Family Therapist, has over 20 years of experience providing individual and group therapy in both non-profit and private settings. Darby takes a unique approach to counseling and looks beyond the presenting problem to make a real connection with the children and families. Through a variety of techniques, Darby helps children and families express what is troubling them when they haven’t mastered the language or awareness to express their thoughts and feelings verbally. She incorporates the family as a whole into the therapy to establish a framework to teach on-going problem solving skills and provides a corrective emotional experience that is necessary for healing.

Darby Fox earned her Master’s degree from Columbia University where she graduated summa cum laude after receiving a BA from Middlebury College. Since Columbia she’s pursued extensive post master’s specialized training from Columbia University, Yale Child Study Center, NYU Silver School of Social Work, Mel Levine’s All Kind’s Of Minds Institute, Harvard Medical School and The Ackerman Institute for the Family. She currently divides her time between pro-bono work for Horizon’s, a non-profit agency working risk kids, and private practice.

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