Keeping College Admissions in Perspective

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Don't let rejection get the best of you.

As college decision time rolls around, it’s important to keep things in perspective, and two inspiring articles published by the New York Times (click here and here) help do just that. You don’t have to look far to find the college mania surrounding many of us, but while students and parents can easily get swept along, it’s important to remember the bigger picture. In his recently published book “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” Frank Bruni takes real life examples of talented, driven students who experienced a series of intense rejections during the admissions process but ultimately achieved their goals.

Not only did these students continue to move forward, they felt the rejections even helped them to succeed down the road. According to one student, “I never would have had the strength, drive or fearlessness to take such a risk if I hadn’t been rejected so intensely before. There’s a beauty to that kind of rejection, because it allows you to find the strength within.” It may sound cliche, but hearing from students who actually thrived in the face of rejection brings the point home.

Another student who attended Indiana University also turned his initial disappointment into success, and it ultimately turned out to be a door opener in so many ways: “He got into an honors program for undergraduate business majors. He became vice president of a business fraternity on campus. He cobbled together the capital to start a tiny real estate enterprise that fixed up and rented small houses to fellow students. And he finagled a way, off campus, to interview with several of the top-drawer consulting firms that trawled for recruits at the Ivies but often bypassed schools like Indiana. Upon graduation, he took a plum job in the Chicago office of the Boston Consulting Group, where he recognized one of the other new hires: the friend from New Trier who’d gone to Yale. Traveling a more gilded path, she’d arrived at the same destination. He later decided to get a master’s degree in business administration, and that’s where he is now, in graduate school — at Harvard.”

However your college admissions experience turns out, keep in mind that it’s your grit, hard work, and positive outlook that will ultimately get you where you want to be. You may not always control the scenery, but you are still the driver!

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Dealing with College Rejection Letters: How Parents Can Help

Who is dealing with it better? You or your parents?

Who is dealing with it better? You or your parents?

While there may be one applicant that you know who was accepted to all of her colleges, this is by far the exception. For most, there will be a mix of acceptances and rejections to process. How can parents help? Of course, it depends on the student. For some, simply stepping back and giving some breathing room is all that's needed. For others, a more hands on approach is required to help soothe those open wounds. Here are a few tips for parents laid out by writing coach Julie Fingersh.

  • Don't try to explain it away, but meet your child where he or she is. Rejection is tough for anyone, but getting rejected from a dream college might feel like a student's whole future hopes have been crushed. The first step is to simply acknowledge how bad it feels.
  • Tell your own related stories of rejection. Sharing that you aren't perfect and have also struggled and lived to tell about it can help your child to find the silver lining in the situation.
  • Try to tease apart "reality vs. appearance." While this may look and feel bad to your child, the reality is that college does not define a person, nor does it determine one's future. A few well-chosen facts may come in handy when your child is ready to listen. Here's one to keep in your toolbox: "A 2014 Gallup poll found that when it comes to hiring, a mere 9 percent of U.S. business leaders ranked where a candidate went to college as 'very important.'"
  • Once the sting has lessened, share this article on what makes people stronger. If it's well-timed, it will help to put things back in perspective and enable your child to start to make the most of the options that are available.
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