“Sorry, you were not selected…”
Those words can be devastating, no matter how old you are. Children not selected for a sports team, a senior rejected from a college, a college student rejected from a sorority or fraternity or an adult not selected for a job or promotion.
How do you help your child handle college rejection just as they get ready to make their mark in the world? A college student is no longer at home all day every day, so it’s harder to hold hands, give hugs and dry tears.
Here are some ways to comfort your student while encouraging their resilience and determination.
Closed Doors Don’t Determine Worth
Did your child get rejected by a sorority or fraternity they rushed for? It can feel devastating, like a blanket judgment on a person’s looks, personality, and overall worthiness.
But it isn’t.
The biggest lesson your student can learn – right now, as soon as possible – is that no one else holds they keys to their worthiness. Your student can still feel comfortable on campus. They can still walk around like a rock star. They determine their own worth.
A group of folks doesn’t want to hang out with them right now?
No problem. They are worthy of great friends who want to spend time with them, who care about them, and will root for them to succeed.
A closed door is just a door, not a judgment. Knowing that now will help your child immeasurably as they move through adult life.
Consider Taking a Second (Or Third, Or..) Choice
Perhaps your student didn’t get into their top college, but did get accepted to a different one. Or perhaps the top-choice Greek house didn’t accept them, but another one offered membership.
Should they take it?
A lot of this depends on maturity and attitude, but generally, the answer is yes. Obviously if your child is going to be in a snit and chooses to hate every minute, it won’t work out. But, if they choose to make the most of the door that is open to them, it could be everything they dreamed of.
A Greek house will still give them incredible friendships, hilarious memories, and access to great events, even if it’s not their top choice community. A college can still offer academic excellence and a great chance to become their own adult, even if it’s a third or fourth choice school.
College Rejection is Not the End of the Road
No rejection, whether it’s from a school, a degree program, Greek life or a sweetheart, is ever the final word on how life will work out.
Young people have a very difficult time seeing beyond the current moment. Their short-term perspective has a lot to do with the fact that they haven’t lived long enough to put failures and success in perspective.
As their parent, you have, and you can model the appropriate response.
Help your student think about what they can do to move forward. What options do they have right now? What can they do to rebound? What other paths are available?
When you help them see the choices that still exist, you can help them understand that college rejection is far from the final say on life. Instead, there are many, many more opportunities.
Allow Your Child to Grow Without You
Probably the hardest part of the whole process is that you, as a parent, are no longer in control. You can’t confront a bully’s parents, talk to a principal or smooth over a situation for your child anymore.
But that’s a good thing!
It’s time for your student to grow into their own man or woman. And dealing with rejection is a huge part of that. As they discover who they fit with – and who they don’t – they will find strength within themselves that won’t be based on you making it all OK.
As a parent, that’s hard to deal with. We want to always be needed, always be number one, always be the first person our child leans on. At the same time, we know that we can’t be that person forever. As you child faces rejection in college and beyond, they gain the opportunity to find their own way.
Let them grow without you. Tell them you can’t fix a college rejection, but they can – and will – make it through. Remind them of the man or woman you see in them. And then let them fly.
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