Fun, Clever, and Smart Ways to Handle College Rejections

Woman handing an ice cream cone to the person behind the camera

Fun, Clever, and Smart Ways to Handle College Rejections

Published February 21, 2024

Woman handing an ice cream cone to the person behind the camera

Celebrating college acceptances is great, but how do you mark the other significant moment, rejection? 

We asked parents in our Paying for College 101 Facebook Group to share how college rejections were handled at their house, and dozens wrote in with unique and clever responses.

“Last year our family had sparkling cider for acceptances and milkshakes or ice cream for rejections,” said Lindsey I.M. “By the end, the younger siblings were begging for more rejections and the fun helped lighten things for my senior. Every application was an awesome effort and we felt that the attempts at some reaches should be celebrated too.” 

Many parents said they were inspired to try something similar, while others shared the ways their families were choosing to mark these moments. For some, it was as simple as asking what’s for dinner. “On decision days, our son gets to decide what we get for takeout,” said Laura B.

It’s Not Personal; It’s Business

Parents praised Jhana W.’s effort to get way ahead of rejections with a talk at the start of the process. “We headed off disappointment by using a measured and impersonal approach to the entire process from day one,” she said. “We explained over and over that colleges are businesses. You are the shopper. Both of you are making decisions based on your institutional needs. Colleges have very specific criteria to meet with each incoming class. They will not divulge what this is. One year you may fill that need. Another year, it won’t be you. A rejection is not a statement of your value or worth. It’s a very impersonal business decision by the school.”

She went on to note that students do some of the rejecting, too. “Similarly, you are rejecting schools and it’s not a measure of a school’s worth. It’s a business decision based on your needs. There is no “dream school”. There is a school that meets your needs.”

This approach helped manage expectations for her child so much that they added a “dead to me” column to the college spreadsheet for rejections just for fun. “My child was rejected a few times and while it stung for a bit,” added Jhana W., “she recovered fast and moved on.”

Learning To Handle Rejection Is A Life Skill

A quick recovery is great, but so is building resiliency, a trait students will need time and again in life. The important thing is for students to understand that rejections aren’t personal, and that giving something a try is worth it, even if it doesn’t work out in your favor.

“I’ve heard of families doing a “try pie” for when someone tries something new, even if it doesn’t always work out,” said fellow parent Mary D.C.

In addition to rejections, deferrals can also be difficult to deal with. “For deferrals, we made an ice cream float with apple cider instead of soda,” said Ann S.R. “We figured you’re still floating around when the school has not decided — somewhere between the cider and the ice cream.”

Some parents said they take a similar approach to receiving scores for AP and standardized tests. “My daughter was negative heading into her first AP test,” said Joan K. “I asked what we should do to celebrate if she got a 5. She said to go to a local ice cream shop and get a fancy sundae with a brownie, whipped cream, and a cherry. I asked, what do we do if you get a 2? She dejectedly said get a kid’s scoop of plain vanilla. I said no if you get a 2, we’re going to get the fancy sundae with the brownie and the whipped cream and the cherry. You’re not being rewarded for the specific score, I’m proud of you for doing the class and taking the test.”

We love how parents put so much thought into college-related news of any kind. It’s important for students to feel supported during this process. For many students, it’s the first time they’re truly feeling a significant amount of pressure and stress. 

“I love how parents are celebrating both experiences with the whole family and modeling how to react for the younger kids too,” said mom Kristen J. “There was hard work involved in all the applications! Life will hand you so many ups and downs and reinforcing how to react with resilience and perseverance is so important.”

How do you celebrate college rejections and deferrals — or plan to? Join this and many other great conversations in our Paying for College 101 Facebook Group.

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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.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

12 Great Ideas for Celebrating Your Child’s Acceptance

The Truth about Your College Acceptance Odds–What Every Student Should Know Before Stressing Out

Creative Graduation Gifts

JOIN ONE OF OUR FACEBOOK GROUPS & CONNECT WITH OTHER PARENTS: 

PAYING FOR COLLEGE 101

HOW TO FIND MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS

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