Rejected Early Decision: Advice to Parents

Getting rejected from an early decision school can be gut-wrenching…for parents. Your kid has worked so hard, missed out on social activities in the name of extra-curricular ones, visited scores of colleges, and finally aligned their hopes on that perfect school only to be told that, well, this year isn’t their year, after all. Rejection is bad enough. What makes this time of year worse for kids who get the dreaded thin envelope is parents who are shaken, as well, and not doing a great job of hiding it.  

What Not to Do  

We get it. Getting rejected can leave you feeling helpless. This time of year, we get tons of calls from parents saying they don’t know what to do and they’re heartbroken, right along with their kids. The thing is, feeling empathetic for your kids is inevitable. We know that. But so is living vicariously through them, and if you’re experiencing the full weight of the rejection as they are, you might begin to freak out. Freaking out is counter-productive. In this time, parents have a tendency to lash out, try to assert control, or vocalize their frustrations. But indulging in those emotions is neglecting one really important tenet to this whole application thing: the kids come first.

Reacting to your feelings doesn’t ensure your child’s well-being comes first. It ensures that, perhaps, you’ve vented, aired your grievances, or felt less helpless, but does it really do anything for the cause itself? Horses can sense fear in their riders. So, too, can kids sense worry in their parents. So, if you need to go scream into a pillow, cry, burn the rejecting school’s mascot in effigy, you should do those things. Just do them on your own time, in private, so that you don’t end up smearing your emotional mess onto your kids.

What to Say

First, take a breath. Your kid’s rejection from college doesn’t say anything about them. It doesn’t mean anything about their success in the future. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to get into all of the other schools to which they’ve applied. It doesn’t mean they won’t be happy at one of those schools and it doesn’t mean you failed as a parent in any way. Your kid’s rejection also has no bearing on how much you love them. We know you know that. But we find that, immediately following the rejection stage, kids sometimes need to be reminded.

It’s actually really important. Even if you think your kid is handling it all just fine, tell them anyway. Make sure they understand they’re not a disappointment and that you’re very proud of them for working hard and taking a leap of faith. After all, they’re going to have to write another round of essays and kids write better essays when they feel supported.

What to Do

It’s time to get into action. So, your kid lost the first battle. Tough. But the war rages on. Your student has another big push ahead of them and they may need your help getting organized and pepped back up. We recommend all regular decision applications are completed by December 15th. So, if they haven’t done them yet, it’s time to get going. Remember, essays can be re-purposed. Just make sure they each answer the question of each school, and for God’s sake, don’t write the wrong university’s name in the essay!

If you aren’t prepared to complete your applications by December 15th, consult a professional. Following the early decision deadline, we offer something called the “It’s Going to Be Okay” package to help students who need support getting their regular decision applications together.


Need help with regular decision applications? Reach out to us. We have a tried-and-true organizational method to help even the most frazzle student stay focused.