by cheri block
This is the time of year when college acceptances and rejections begin to arrive in local mailboxes and appear online. Some students’ dreams are realized; others’ expectations are not met. How we, as parents, react to these situations is crucial, not only for the happy camper, but also for the disappointed one.
I remember back in 1968 when I was a graduating senior. My high school only had one (that’s right, I said one) valedictorian and one salutatorian. Only one student out of 450 had achieved a 4.0. There was a Top Ten award for the 10 students who got closest to a 4.0.
I wanted to go to U.C. Davis, for at that time, it was rural and I was entertaining the idea of becoming a veterinarian. I had my plans made. I could see myself breathing that peat dust, fending off allergies, and dating a cowboy. Those scenarios went out the window when Davis rejected me. How could they DO THAT? Why, I was the Head Cheerleader, enrolled in the hardest classes, boasted a ton of extra curricular activities, including dog training, annoying my three siblings, and donating over 100 hours of volunteer CIT duties with the City Day Camp. Well, if they don’t want me, I CERTAINLY do not want them. The mind begins to rationalize when life doesn’t go our way.
Then a crimson/gold envelope arrived from USC, and in several days, an envelope with a tiger on the outside arrived from the University of the Pacific. Ok, I had choices now, and without dragging my readership through the long haul suffice to say, I decided upon USC.
Today, things are vastly different. Students have been focused, sometimes since junior high and earlier, on THE school they want to attend. Many times this focus has had much help germinating and developing through mom and dad. Students have slaved through many hours of homework, AP classes, 3-5 extracurricular activities, leadership, journalism, sports, not to mention trying to maintain a social life. But for many students, the entire high school experience comes down to that acceptance letter.
When I taught high school English, March and April were the months of great highs and lows. Students would ask my advice about their college acceptances and rejections, but I was unwavering in my reply. Though they might not have liked my advice, I always said the same things: I guess you weren’t meant to go to Brown, or I guess your path is the one that leads to San Jose State. I always found many good things to say about every school because the truth is, there ARE positives about every school.
Kids are usually worried about disappointing their parents, so how parents handle college rejections is important. This is not the time to list all the classes and activities the student should have participated in. This is not the time to remind the student that she should have studied harder for her SAT. The bottom line is that the rejection experience already tells the student those things. Nothing needs to be said, usually.
Sometimes the parents’ own egos are superimposed on their children. At this point, when a child is getting ready to venture out into the world, it might be a good time to disentangle those egos.
Now is the time to look for the silver lining in each college acceptance and be 100% supportive.