As rejection letters responding to school applications come trickling in, parents and students may struggle with feelings of inadequacy or, “What did I do wrong?” Two experts share their views on dealing with these feelings and how to make the best of a rejected application.
Don’t get in a rut.
By Dr. Ehrin Weiss, Clinical Psychologist, Houston Family Psychology
Dear private school applicant,
It’s that time of year—the time when private schools announce their admissions decisions. If you’ve just found out that you didn’t get into the school you’ve been dreaming of, you may be feeling very disappointed right now (even if you did get into your second or third choice). Rejection hurts! Your parents may also be disappointed, which can make your hurt feelings even more difficult to manage. You might find yourself feeling jealous or resentful of friends who did get into your dream school or worried about what this rejection means about you or your future. If this sounds familiar, what can you do?
First, try not to be too hard on yourself. It makes sense that you’d feel upset for a little while (maybe a few days) as you get used to the idea that your plans will have to change. It’s ok to have those feelings, as long as they don’t take over your life.
Don’t take the school’s decision too personally. Remember that there are a lot of other kids who are experiencing the same thing you are. Private school admissions are very competitive, and many qualified students have to be rejected because there just aren’t as many spots as there are qualified students. Schools have to come up with ways to make a decision, and sometimes their reasons can seem hard to understand. Think of the Olympics—sometimes the difference between earning a medal and not is fractions of a second in one day’s performance as opposed to one person being clearly superior—you may have just missed the cutoff due to a slight difference between you and the student who was admitted. If there’s something you know may have impacted your application, you can take steps to improve that for next year’s application.
Do your best to make the most of the situation. The chances that this rejection is going to prevent you from ultimately reaching your life’s goals are slim to none (unless you take it so hard that you give up). Most successful people have had to overcome major rejections and setbacks in their lives, and what’s separated them from others is how they handled it. Use this as a learning experience. Learning to overcome these setbacks and move forward can help you to become more successful in the future. And who knows, someday you may actually decide that things have worked out for the best!
Dr. Ehrin Weiss
(A successful psychologist who’s been where you are now.)
Know that it’s a goals-based process.
By Carolyn Means, M.Ed., School Solutions
In private school admissions, schools have two primary goals. First, they want to make sure that an applicant has the potential to be a successful student given the rigor and pace of the school’s curriculum. Second, admission committees look for qualified applicants who bring talents, interests and experiences needed to make a diverse, harmonious class. One admission director compared a good class to a fine orchestra. Sometimes, it is just the luck of who is in the applicant pool and what the school needs to balance the class.
My goal for clients is less stress and more success. Success begins early, with applying to the schools that truly matches the student’s academic potential and extra-curricular interests.
Admission decisions are made in the best interest of the student and school, and there are always regrets for not having space to take all of the excellent students who applied.
The more importance and focus parents put on getting into the “best” school, the worse a child is going to feel for not being accepted.
Schools are looking for resilient students who can handle disappointment. Rejection hurts, but it is a part of life. A parent’s role is to be supportive and comforting and keep the results in perspective.
It is never appropriate or wise to be angry with an admission director or school administrator. There will be time in the coming months to meet with the admission director and ask what might be done in the future to obtain a better result.
For students who do not get into the schools they want, there will still be options. I help families find places at great schools well into the summer.
Sometimes, qualified applicants are offered a place on the waiting lists at their first choice schools. This could be a kind way of saying “no” to a family, but it is usually a serious effort by the school to accept a student who just might not have been the perfect fit in the first round of decisions. If their child is waitlisted, parents should thank the admission director, be patient and keep their options open until they must commit to an offer from another school.