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Note to seniors: Rejection letters do not equal failure

Posted April 7, 2011 8:37 p.m. EDT

The results are in: This year’s college admissions process has resulted in yet another year of record applications. So what’s that mean? Another class of seniors is dealing with a record number of rejections and wait lists. Although rejection hurts and uncertainty is frustrating, not getting into your dream school does not equate to failure.

While it seems difficult to find a silver lining in a rejection, it’s important to remember that the sheer number of applicants now applying to schools makes it almost a given that you’ll receive at least one rejection. A rejection letter should never be viewed as personal.

Parents often feel insulted when their child doesn’t get into a certain college as their child is “such a great kid!” Of course he’s a great kid, but when a school has 1,500 spots for 25,000 applicants, you can expect a lot of great kids to get turned down. Simple mathematics will tell you that if a school receives 5,000 of its 25,000 applicants with perfect grades and test scores that they won’t be spending much time looking at “great kids” with lesser accomplishments.

It’s important to remember that every college has their own view of what student will fit their school. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to meet every school’s expectations. What may be viewed as a must have at one school may not even be considered in another. For a teenager, it’s often difficult to get past the fact that they were rejected. Although it may seem like attending a prestigious college is the key to success, it’s really not the end of the world if you don’t get in. Regardless of the school you attend, the diploma alone does not guarantee you’ll get a job after college.

As a parent, help your child celebrate those acceptances they did receive, after all, when it comes down to it, you can only attend one school! Don’t dwell on what didn’t or might happen (odds of getting off the wait list are even lower than odds of getting in during the first round).

It’s critical to remember that what you do in college will be a greater indicator of how you will do after college. Assuming their “safety” school was a fit academically and financially, remind your child that they are still going to college and their continued hard work will still pay off in the end!

Christine M. Hall, Ed.D., is owner of CMH College Consulting in Cary. She'll offer advice on the college application and decision process here on Go Ask Mom from time to time. Learn more about Hall's services on the CMH College Consulting website. And see the tips she offered on Go Ask Mom last year and last month in the box above.