Dear Roadie: My Son Told Me to Butt Out, Then Got Rejected by His Top Colleges. What Now?

Dejected teen son sits with his face away from his mother while she tries to talk to him and comfort him.

Dear Roadie: My Son Told Me to Butt Out, Then Got Rejected by His Top Colleges. What Now?

Published April 18, 2024

Dejected teen son sits with his face away from his mother while she tries to talk to him and comfort him.

Dear Roadie,

My excellent, motivated student wouldn’t let me anywhere near the application process. He insisted he had it handled, so I stepped aside. He got into some of his safeties, a couple of target schools that are way too far and expensive, and was rejected from schools he wanted to attend. He’s devastated and I know nothing about financing or applying to college. Is it too late for us?

I Wish I’d Meddled

Dear I Wish I’d Meddled, 

It’s not too late, and you are not the only parent to find herself in his position, so try not to beat yourself up. If your son wants to go to college, he can. His journey just may look different than the one he envisioned. Even though it may seem like the worst thing in the world to him now, he will probably look back on the experience and realize it’s for the best, especially if the other schools are simply not within budget.

First and foremost, have the long-neglected budget conversation. Too many parents wait until decisions come in to get to the nitty gritty regarding what you can afford, which is far from ideal. How much can you afford to pay, if anything? That should be your driving factor when selecting schools because you just don’t know if your student will be offered any scholarship or other form of aid. It’s best to assume he won’t, then be pleasantly surprised later.

If the target schools are too far and pricey, set those aside and start with his safety schools. Are they affordable or out of reach? Either way, make sure you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), even if you think you won’t qualify for any aid, and request a meeting with the financial aid offices to determine if he qualifies for any scholarships. Many can meet over the phone or via video — just make sure you do this alongside your son this time, so there are no surprises. He was right to want to take the lead in his academic journey, but most students need the help and experience of an adult to guide them. It’s easy to forget they are still just teens.

Most students receive scholarships via state programs, so attending school in your home state may be your best bet, at least for now. But he can still search for private scholarships, too, so long as those deadlines haven’t passed yet (many have, unfortunately). 

Keep in mind that many students don’t start at the same school they graduate from, so transferring schools is always an option. This is assuming that some of his safety schools are in state. If they’re not, getting a better sense of cost can help you decide if they should stay on the list anyway. 

Another option to consider is a community college near home for the first year, so he can get his general education requirements out of the way at a low cost. This can give him time to reapply to schools he can both afford and is likely to get into, while providing both of you a bit more time to save money. Run the net price calculators (NPC) of every school before applying to make sure it’s within budget, and look at the Common Data Set regarding the stats and scores of students who are admitted. This can help you hone in on the schools where he is likely to have a high chance of being accepted.

Finally, consider rolling admissions schools with high acceptance rates as many are still taking applications. Many of them can be found in the Common App. Just be sure to avoid schools that are too far or too expensive, since those seem to be dealbreakers for you.

Where there’s a will, there is a way, and with thousands of colleges and universities across the country, there is a place for every student — including yours!

Have a perplexing college question? Email Dear Roadie for advice at


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

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Other Articles You Might Like:

Understanding College Costs: The Role of the Net Price Calculator

Real Parent Advice for When Your Child Is Rejected from Every College

Dear Roadie: Should I Move to a Different State for Free Tuition?





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