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Waiting For Acceptance Letters Can Be An Emotional Roller Coaster

Parents, this one is for you.


Right now, your high school senior is on pins and needles waiting to hear back from colleges. They may have heard back from some already or are yet to receive a single decision. They may not express this to you, but their self-confidence is shaky. Emotionally, they are wrapping up their self-worth in these decisions that are trickling out. Their past 3½ half years, no, their whole life (in their opinion), is up for critical review and judgment by a set of strangers who will decide if they are good enough.


While rational adults know that college decisions are not at all indicative of worth, we have to recognize what your teen specifically might be feeling. So with that being said:

It is vital that you celebrate every, and I mean every single, acceptance that they receive. You might have a list of what you consider to be “suitable” colleges. They may early on get into what is considered their ‘safety schools’, the ones you let them apply to because the college counselors recommended it.


Even if you do not think you would ever send them to a given school, do not deride it in front of your teen. Every acceptance is a win. It is an indication that their hard work and effort are paying off. So bite your tongue if you must. Look for the good in the school. At the very least, congratulate your teen, give them a big hug, and tell them how proud you are of them. Anything short of that is a failure in their eyes. They are looking to you for support and acceptance as well. They want to know that their achievements are worthy.


By saying nothing or by minimizing any acceptance, your child’s anxiety will continue. More than just supporting them emotionally, the future is still a blank page. You don’t know where else they will get accepted. If it turns out that their options are limited to a few of their safety schools, you want them to still be excited about college. By degrading those choices now, choosing a college over the next few months is going to be exceptionally difficult — for everyone involved.


And if denials happen, you have to be equally, if not more, supportive. Explain to them that this denial is not a reflection of their hard work, but rather a reflection of the competitive admissions process. Talk to them about denials that you might have faced in your life and how you dealt with them. Explain that where they choose to go to college will not determine their life’s outcome.


Rationally, your teen will hear you and understand. Emotionally, they will still be hard on themselves. They will be sad, disappointed, angry, or withdrawn — perhaps some combination of these. They will think the world, at the very least colleges, are unfair. They will undoubtedly know someone that got into a particular school with a “lesser” application.


This is a huge parent opportunity for you. This is a time for you teach them to rise above the fray, to be happy for their friends, to be accepting of the decisions they have received. Never ever disparage a school or another student. Doing so does not actually make anything better. Rather it teaches your teen to be resentful. Let them know that it is OK to be upset. Let them know that you are there to support them no matter what. Let them know that in just a few short weeks, this decision will be a thing of the distant past. Focus on the positive — the acceptances they have received.


Undoubtedly this is a difficult time for you as well. You are preparing to send your baby off into the world. But you have been thinking about this moment, probably, for your child’s whole life. This, for them, is a new world that they have to learn to navigate and they need your love, support, and guidance along the way.


We wish you all the very best,

Team Insight 

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