So, Your Kid Got Rejected From College — Maybe You Should Be Relieved

It’s that time of year again: when high seniors find out whether they’ve been accepted to their dream college — or any college, for that matterThere’s no denying that a kid receiving a rejection letter is a painful experience, and that can be especially disappointing if the kid in question has been dreaming about attending this specific school for months, or even years. But guess what: If your teen didn’t get into their dream school, it may be a blessing in disguise. 

Brittany Maschal, college counselor and owner of Brittany Maschal Consulting, explains to SheKnows that “sometimes, things just happen to work out exactly as they should, especially when it comes to college admissions.” Even though your kid may have had their heart set on one school in particular, there’s probably a good reason they didn’t get in (if your academics aren’t strong enough to get into Harvard, you probably don’t want to end up — struggling — at Harvard after all). And more importantly, there’s likely a million more fitting choices just waiting for them around the corner.

Understanding the rejection

Maschal tells SheKnows “Most students decide on a dream school by evaluating many factors. Some students care only about academics and prestige, while others focus more heavily on location or cost. Almost all students also take into account the school’s selectivity and their own academic profile and their likelihood of getting in.”  

But sometimes students apply to a school even when they know (or have been advised by counselors) that they lack the grades, resume and/or test scores the school requiresThey may assume that dynamic essays or their family legacy will gain them entrance to their dream school, but this isn’t usually what happens. Maschal tells SheKnows, “Our culture really pushes that we should all go for our dreams. And that is the truth in many life scenarios, but college admissions may not be one of them. In fact, by going for your dreams in that way, it often does not work out.” And even students that have all the credentials a school is looking for are not guaranteed acceptance in today’s ultra-competitive admissions environment.   

Was the school really a good fit?

Applying to college should be about finding the best fit for the student. But many students confuse “best fit” with “best rank” and focus their sights on attending the best school they can get into. Maschal tells SheKnows, “Focusing too much on brand or prestige when it comes to college selection is never a good idea. But it is hard for many students to choose otherwise because as a society we place so much value on these attributes.”  

College Counselor and Educational Consultant Missy Rodriguez tells SheKnows, “Often times, kids have their hearts set on their dream college and yet they can’t pinpoint what exactly makes it their dream’ school. Their opinions are often based on intangible things such as a winning football team or it’s the school where their parents attended, neither of which means it is actually a good fit for them.” 

Parents may be just as under-informed as students about what schools really have to offer beyond their name and rank. Lower ranked schools can have great programs geared toward specific areas of interest and yet students and parents shun looking at the school due to the lack of name recognition. Maschal tells SheKnows, “Parents want what is best for their student and are often are willing to go great lengths to see that “best” reached. The problem is that parents are defining best and not the student themselves.”   

If a student has been rejected, it might be for the best. Perhaps at their dream school, they would have felt lost or overwhelmed, especially if they  

only got in because of legacy or a connection or even some luckMaschal points out that she has met many students who get into their dream schools only to realize when they got there that the school wasn’t a good fit after all. It might be that the student Is better off having been rejected and can now attend a school that better suits them.  

Striving for practical dreams

Allow your student to be disappointed. Listen to them and support them as they get over the loss. Maschal tells SheKnows, “It’s important to remind students that the rejection was not of them personally but of their application and what they had to offer in relation to what the school was looking for at that particular time.   

 After a few days, help them to look at their other options and get excited about the schools they were accepted to. Rodriguez tells SheKnows, “I believe not getting into your dream school can be a blessing in disguise, because now the students are forced to really examine what makes a place a perfect fit. When students look at other schools with an open mind, they often find an even better match than their original dream school because they have time to examine the curriculum, explore the extracurricular activities, and visit the campus.” 

Students may find that in the end, they are happier than they thought they would beMaschal explains, “Most high achieving high school students who don’t get into their dreams school and attend a school that is slightly less selective tend to see that they are just as challenged as they to be. Some even relish being near the top of the class because that is what they were used to in high school.” 

In her experience, Maschal has found that there is not only a dream school for most kids but also a dream school #2 and most likely a #3, #4, and #5 too Maschal tells She Knows, “I have found that students land right where they are supposed to.  The get to school and realize, “Wow, college is awesome,” and they don’t look back.”   

Remember, getting accepted to a school is up to the admissions department. What your student does once they get in, is up to them.  With a positive attitude and hard work, the possibilities are endless.  

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