By now, high school seniors have (hopefully) completed their college applications. Scores, grades, and letters of recommendation submitted, essays written, edited, and rewritten, application fees charged to the credit card — students are now left waiting for their acceptance. Or rejection.

Whether it’s a “reach,” “target,” or “safety” school, Amy Diluna says a rejected college application can be crushing to the teen applicant:

[T]o a teen who is presenting very personal information to strangers for evaluation for the first time, coming away with an intact spirit in the event of a rejection is easier said than done.

And many high school seniors are putting themselves out there now, as early decision and early action deadlines loom.

“To suggest that 16 and 17-year-olds aren’t going to take this to heart is unrealistic,” said Lisa Sohmer, director of college counseling at The Garden School in Queens, New York. “It is disappointing, and it is a rejection. And in high school, all of the rejections mean more.”

As colleges become more selective than ever, thanks to an ever-growing pool of applicants to each program, high schoolers should certainly steel themselves for some tough emotions.


Dilute talks to experts who advise parents to chill (your student will work through the rejection, realize that life goes on, and get over it), and students to stay off very public social media sites (posting too much will only lead to increased attention and embarrassment over the rejection). Keeping a bit of perspective and knowing that the application rather than the person was rejected can help:

“These highly selective, highly competitive schools couldn’t possibly take all the qualified applicants,” Sohmer said. “Being denied at one of these schools does not mean the student is not qualified, does not mean they couldn’t do the work there, and be really successful there. But they simply, because the supply of qualified kids is too high for them to accommodate, have to start looking at things other than pure academic qualifications.”


Admission to your number one choice, Diluna says, is sometimes like winning the Powerball:

“When only 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 applicants get admitted, it is closer to a lottery,” said Jim Jump, director of college counseling at St. Christopher’s School in Virginia. “As a counselor, my advice to students and parents mirrors the Serenity Prayer. Focus and worry about the things over which you control, and not over those you don’t. Getting into a particular school is one of those.”


Most of all, these experts say, stay positive! Your student has done a lot of hard work in school and through the application process. There are always options which will work out well if your child is ready to move forward rather than dwell on the rejection. The next big opportunity may be right around the corner, and the optimist — the one with an open mind — will probably be the first to grab it!