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Dear Parents of Disappointed High-Achieving High School Seniors

Dear Parents of Disappointed High-Achieving High School Seniors,

Yesterday, your child heard from a small group of highly sort after colleges and universities. I know that you expected a different outcome. After all, your child worked hard, received excellent grades in challenging courses, has standardized test scores that most envy, and participated in activities from A to Z. So, why wasn’t your teen accepted?

College admissions representatives from highly selective schools will tell you that they could admit two, three or maybe even four classes of students without sacrificing the caliber of student they admit. The competition is fierce, and your child wasn’t one of the lucky few. Your child didn’t fit what the school was looking for at that moment. If the school needed an oboe player this year, students who play the oboe had a better chance of admission. Institutional requirements differ from school to school and are hardly ever made public. And next year’s needs will be different.

College admissions representatives are human. No matter how hard they try, they probably bring some biases to the table. It’s human nature. The applicant who had to work two jobs may resonate with a reader who was similarly placed in high school. The equestrian may not fair as well with someone who isn’t an animal lover. The reader may not “get” the level of commitment and time necessary to achieve blue ribbons, the bond between rider and horse, or what mucking out a stable entails. Similarly, someone who is unfamiliar with fencing may not recognize its cerebral nature, or someone who enjoys mega spectator sports may find it hard to grasp participation in a one or two person event with few observers.

Likewise, college admissions officers have lives. They might have a sick child at home or are in the process of making decisions about an ailing parent. Their roof might be leaking, or their car didn’t start that morning. Any of these things may, even subconsciously, influence their view of an applicant.

I know that this seems unfair and the process seems arbitrary.  It is unfair, but often so is life. It’s hard to see your child unhappy and know that you can’t do anything to change things. Be careful not to give the impression that they have let you down; it’s not your teen’s fault.

Help your teen realize that their denial was not a reflection of who they are. Applicants are denied for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with merit. Give your child time to process what has happened and to reflect.Then, help him to let it go. Where a person attends college does not determine success in life. It is up to your child to determine his or her own success. The more time the family spends dwelling on the denial, the harder it will be to move forward.

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