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denial in college application

Dealing with denial

college acceptance college acceptance letters college applications Apr 28, 2023

Everybody wants the euphoria of college acceptance and the sense of pride generated by the college sticker on the back windshield of their car. But what happens when you have to settle for Plan B when there will be no euphoria, just resignation. How do you help your child deal with reality?


Advice in these kinds of situations always sounds so cliché, but the truth is that as resistant as your child may be, it works. Encourage your child with ideas such as


Don't take it personally.

Encourage your child to understand the big picture. If sharing stats of the number of students who applied to Stanford and were denied help, then use them. Not being accepted is not the equivalent of “failure.” Colleges are consumed with fulfilling their institutional priorities—they may need sociology applicants and trombone players, or discus throwers and students from Hawaii. Perhaps your child is a classic “over-represented” student. There just isn’t much you can do to change your demographics.


It didn’t happen only to you.

There are lots of other students whose dreams also weren’t realized. You’re not alone. Reach out to friends and commiserate together and then try to move on together. You will all appreciate the support.


Don’t get caught up with the prestige factor.

It’s important to recognize that brand name doesn't equal success, and more importantly, doesn’t equal happiness. Your performance during your undergraduate experience will be the biggest factor that determines your job placement, not the college’s “name.”


Don’t obsess about the denials and do your best to be positive about your other options.

Don't spend a lot of time agonizing, but instead, use the time and your energy to identify another school that you will like as much or more. Often not being accepted can send a student to a different school or down a different path and unexpected opportunities can crop up. Some students think they want big schools and realize they’ll have more opportunities to shine at a smaller school. Be positive about other institutions. Celebrate your acceptance!


The big picture here is that for many students the “denial letter” may be the first time they have experienced serious disappointment. Their egos are bruised and the truth is, as all adults know, they’ll grow and they’ll get over it. Handling this denial will make them better prepared for future obstacles. College rejection happens to most students, but it doesn’t need to define the rest of their life.


Photo by Polina Zimmerman:

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