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That First Acceptance Letter is a Big Deal!

While it may seem too early to receive college acceptance letters, many students who applied to schools with rolling admissions have started to receive some decisions. In the past two weeks, I have gotten several emails from students notifying me that they got into X or Y colleges, but then quickly following up with something along the lines of, “It’s not my top choice, so I am not that thrilled about it.” Parents have sent me similar emails.


My immediate response: Celebrate every acceptance, every accomplishment.


There is no reason to apply to colleges that really don’t excite you — that is just a waste of your time, money and energy. Every school on your list should be one that you would love to attend regardless of how difficult are its admissions or how prestigious is its brand. The fact that the “thick envelope” or congratulatory email came early does not mean that it is a lesser school.


What it does imply is that you are a strong candidate who got their act together early enough to send in a compelling application. The school valued your academics and accomplishments and would love to have you in its freshman class.


Remember that the journey to May 1 can feel like an endless one. I hope that it is filled with more good news than with disappointment, and more acceptances than denials. But this first acceptance is huge. It means that you are going to college. Wasn’t that the goal from the beginning?


So don’t temper good news. But sit down and go through the rest of your college list and ask yourself if you are truly committed to the schools you have chosen. How likely are you to attend any one of those schools if given an acceptance? If you realize that your list has been padded to collect acceptance letters, rethink your strategy. And now that you have this one acceptance, ask yourself which schools you would choose instead of this one. It might help you narrow your list and save you some unnecessary work. If the fact that this school does not excite you much means that you want to add a couple of more schools, talk to your high school counselor and teachers to see if it would be possible to do so.


And parents, you have a responsibility here to encourage your child and celebrate every success. Do not talk down about any school on your child’s list. Sure, it might not be your favorite school and you might not be that keen on sending them to a specific school, but save those comments until all decisions have been received.


What if, in the worst case, this is the only school your child is accepted to? Your disparaging of it will affect their confidence. Be positive and encouraging and engaged. There is no need to jump up and down or throw a party, but a few words of congratulations can go so far.


Remember that this is an incredibly difficult time in a teen’s life. They are putting himself out there to be judged by faceless admissions officers who are going to determine where they spend the next four formative years of their life. Their strengths and weaknesses are going to be on private display and compared to their peers. Your child knows this. These acceptance letters are crucially important to them right now.


So whether you have a great interview, get amazing feedback on your personal statement, get an acceptance letter, or pull off a great grade on that midterm, celebrate, even silently, the accomplishment.


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