Parent College Coach Tip #55: The Truth About Rejections

college rejectionsCollege rejections. They are coming. What’s the real truth behind college rejections? 

I’ve found some very wise words from some very wise experts. When the emotions subside and your college-bound teen is ready to talk, show them these words. It could open their eyes to the truth about college rejection letters.

Paul Hemphill is a noted college admission counselor and an expert in marketing college-bound teens to college and helping them win merit awards. Here’s what he had to say:

Because you are so talented – and this statement is for those who were rejected by their first-choices – you will be successful with your life. Like cream that rises to the top, so will you…

Follow your dream and ignore the noise of a culture focused on shallow and empty distractions. And accept the hard-bitten reality (it’ll take time) that, in the end, no one really cares about your losses or wins except those who love and cherish you for who you are and what you have already achieved.

What’s the take-away here? All through your life of achievement, which is a winning habit you have already started with the success you’ve had in high school, no one – NO ONE – will ask, “Where did you go to college?”

In 1968 in the Saturday Evening Post, author Joan Didion published an essay on being denied admission at Stanford University. It’s a timeless commentary on dealing with rejection and the complex feelings stirred by that bitter pill many applicants face at some point in the application process. In it, she addresses the reality of college admissions. This is directed toward parents:

Getting into college has become an ugly business, malignant in its consumption and diversion of time and energy and true interests, and not its least deleterious aspect is how the children themselves accept it. They talk casually and unattractively of their “first, second and third choices,” of how their “first-choice” application (to Stephens, say) does not actually reflect their first choice (their first choice was Smith, but their adviser said their chances were low, so why “waste” the application?); they are calculating about the expectation of rejections, about their “backup” possibilities, about getting the right sport and the right extracurricular activities to “balance” the application, about juggling confirmations when their third choice accepts before their first choices answers.

And of course none of it matters very much at all, none of these early successes, early failures. I wonder if we had better not find some way to let our children know this, some way to extricate our expectations from theirs, some way to let them work through their own rejections and sullen rebellions and interludes with golf pros, unassisted by anxious prompting from the wings. Finding one’s role at 17 is problem enough, without being handed somebody else’s script.

And finally, here’s a pointed message for all seniors who are going to college from Mark Moody, Co-Director of College Counseling at Colorado Academy:

Now, and in your life to come, resist the urge to let membership in or exclusion from any institution define you or impact your self-image in either positive or negative ways. We are all susceptible to the power of names and outside validation, but I encourage you to develop a healthy suspicion of people who rely on those things to give meaning to their lives or to serve as markers of their superiority. When you dig past the veneer of status, they usually live their lives on a continuum somewhere between “emotionally stunted,” “boring,” “insecure,” “obnoxiously self-important,” and “spectacularly uncool.” The most interesting, truly accomplished and innovative people are not defined by others’ stories about them. They remain open to their own potential; importantly, they don’t take anyone else’s opinion, or themselves, too seriously. Try to be like that. Let your way of being in the world, your actions, your accountability, and your relationships be the things that meaningfully describe you, and which shape your possibilities for the future.

These words should be encouraging to every parent and student.

Don’t forget to read all of the Scholarship Mom Tips here.

Author: Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer advises parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation at She is excited to share her knowledge with the readers of Smart College Visit.

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