Spring brings rain showers, fresh flowers, glimpses of green grass…and a season of waiting for high school seniors. Colleges typically send out acceptance and rejection letters to prospective students in the early spring. It can be a nerve-racking time for both students and parents. You may not be able to make the time pass by more quickly, but you can make it less stressful. Use these 5 tips to help you and your child survive the college waiting game.
1. Don't make college a constant conversation
Seniors have so many exciting activities during these final months of high school. Exams, proms, and final games will all create memories that your son or daughter will treasure. Be sure to check in with your child about all of the aspects of senior year in addition to the college decision. It may help to remind friends and family that asking, "Have you heard yet?" can be draining. Assure them that your child will get the word out when a decision is made.
2. Celebrate other accomplishments
Seniors may wrap a lot of self-worth into their college acceptance letter. It's important to remember that colleges look at a host of factors when making decisions — and oftentimes it simply comes down to a numbers game. Reassure your child that rejection letters don't mean that they have failed. It may simply mean that another school is a better choice. Continue to celebrate other accomplishments during this year — extra-curricular activities, sports, and community service — in addition to academics.
3. Allow your child to express disappointment
Expect tears, disappointment, and even anger if your child doesn't get into their top school choices. It may feel like you have toddler, not a teen! Be careful not to downplay these emotions. Allow the space for your child to mourn the losses before moving on. A simple "I'm sorry, this must be disappointing" can be comforting without being condescending.
4. Help your child maintain a flexible attitude
After your child has been able to process their disappointment over a rejection letter, encourage them to keep moving forward. Not getting into their first choice of college may feel devastating, but help them remember that their college years are a journey. The first year may look different than they imagined, but that doesn't mean that they won't still enjoy the experience. It will also help for you to maintain a positive attitude about your child's choices. Be willing to put aside your dreams and really support their decisions.
5. Don't allow college acceptance to become a competition
Comparing notes with other parents about college acceptance is natural, but be cautious not to create an atmosphere of competition. The same parents who are bragging about their child's ivy league early admission may be investigating transfer status by mid-year. Seniors have to deal with a variety of situations that involve peer pressure — try not to let college acceptance be one of them. Encourage your child to congratulate their friends on acceptances and be empathetic about rejections.
This is an exciting time in your child's life — and in yours! Be sure to take the time to enjoy and celebrate it!