Accepted or Rejected Let's All Be Supportive During Decision Month | Thinking About College | John Raftrey And Lori McCormick | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Thinking About College

By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

E-mail John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

View all posts from John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

Accepted or Rejected Let's All Be Supportive During Decision Month

Uploaded: Mar 4, 2020
Written by John Raftrey

This post is for both students and parents.

For the student:

This is going to be a tough month.
Almost every senior will get a rejection letter this month.
This is what happens. You don't get into your top choice but your best friend did. Or, you did get into your top choice but your friend didn't and you feel guilty. Or, somebody you consider less deserving than either one of you gets in. Or you get into Harvard but you are bummed because you didn't get into MIT. Or, you realize you really will be going to your safety school.

It will hurt. For most it will get better. Like the penalty kick you missed that cost your team the league championship, it will fade. However, if it overwhelms you, tell a trusted adult and get help.

This is the REAL college admissions test--how you deal with success and non-success.

Think of it as the PSAT of life. Have a plan. For example, promise yourself you will allow yourself to feel crappy for 24 hours and then get ready for the next school result, like an athlete focusing on the next game. Promise yourself you will be over-the-moon happy for 24 hours and then start to think about whether you really want to go to that school or did you just want to get accepted at that school. Whatever your plan is, it will give you control, not over the outcome, but over your reaction to the outcome. Also, it gives you permission to have whatever emotions you have. Those are YOUR emotions. If after a few days you are truly depressed, then talk to a mental health professional. This process can sometimes bring out emotions we didn't know were there.

Wherever your friends get accepted, feel genuinely happy for them. Help them celebrate. Getting into college is a big deal.

Here's the good news:
Those college essays you wrote about your grit and tenacity will be tested. But you are stronger than you think and because you really do have grit and tenacity, you will get through this month no matter where you got into college. You will celebrate your acceptances. You will decide to make that college work for you. You will realize the Periodic Table of the Elements will be the same at your school as the one at MIT. Differential Equations will still be the class that knocks students off the math track and The History of the Peloponnesian War will still be a slog. And then you will kick it into gear. You will realize students from your school go to Harvard Med School and Stanford Law. You will have just enough of a chip on your shoulder to drive you to show you belong at the top schools. This is just not a pep talk, it actually happens.

For the parent:
This may hurt you more than your son or daughter, because we hate to see our kids suffer. Yet, you will still have to be strong. You will show them how to take victory and defeat in stride. You will still love them. They will remember for the rest of their lives the first words out of your mouth, so make them your best.

You will not be able to cheer them up. You will not be able to convince them that Columbia is just as good as Harvard, that San Diego State is just as good as UC San Diego. Do not disparage the schools that rejected them. In addition to being poor sportsmanship, they just might end up going to grad school there. If your child is truly depressed, please get help.

Do not replay the college application essay, the decision to take Calc AB instead of BC, or the seeming lack of community service. The game is over. You have to get them ready for the next game--college and living away from home and dealing with temptation.

And you have to support them when they tell you they really don't want to go to Harvard after all, but would be happier at UC-San Diego. This actually happens.

Realize this is not a grade on your parenting skills. When you run into a friend at Trader Joe's and she says, "Congratulations, I heard Muffy got into Stanford!" Stifle the urge to say, "Thank you." Be nice and tell them you will pass your congratulations along to Muffy.

To track when the decisions come out check out: College Kick Start.

Thanks for the comments from two weeks ago. Here are my two cents.

Common sense:
Thanks for the explanations of UIUC and Cal. My point is that students applying to a college should use the same well-known names the college uses.

Mark Weiss:
I worked in Chicago one summer and it was Champaign Urbana. I never knew why it changed to Urbana Champaign. Thanks for the explanation.

U-M Grad:
Go Blue! A well-written comment reflecting the qualities of a great Michigan education! I agree, when I was a student there in the 70's everybody called it U of M. There are seven other states with a U of M. Hence, I use Michigan. They also used LS&A which is now LSA. I totally agree with you on the Oxford comma and fewer and less. For the rest of you, remember fewer farmers grow less wheat.
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Expectations , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 5, 2020 at 9:16 am

For the college coaches:

Stop advising students to choose reach, match, and safety schools. The pecking order sets them up for disappointment.

Help them think about their needs in life and education. If they apply to only well-researched places they really want to go, and where they will thrive, the schools are more likely to see the match and they are more likely to get in and be happy with their choice. Help them find and apply just to FIT colleges, places they will feel they belong.

We have great community colleges here that offer guaranteed transfer to great UCs and high-probability transfer to the flagship UCs, and even yearly transfers to the best colleges. Advise them to pick only FIT colleges, and forget about “safeties" - I don't mean never choose those colleges, I mean help them find FIT colleges where they will be happy. Period. If the colleges fit, they are more likely to get in. And if they don't get in, if they already have a plan for community college and transfer, again, no dashed hopes, they have a plan to get what they want.

For example, I have a friend whose kid really wanted a specific UC (that has guaranteed transfer), for a certain program. The student went through the usual application exercise and got into the safety, not the desired UC, and was hugely disappointed, but enrolled in the safety despite it not having been chosen for the reasons the student chose the desired UC. The parents and student didn't even know about guaranteed transfer until too late. If the student had simply been encouraged to apply only to good fit schools and to go the CC transfer route if no admission, there would have been no disappointment, only a different, already accepted route to the student's goal.

If that kind of thinking happens in the admissions process, then it's way easier to accept the answer. We ignored the advice of planners and encouraged our teen to really try to find good FIT colleges and apply only to them, and CC transfer in the event of no admission.

This meant our student decided from the getgo not to apply to Harvard or MIT, despite having legacy and stats at the top of their ranges, because they were not good fits for that student (and yes, one would be a great grad school fit). At admit time, this means no hard decisions then to take prestige over a less prestigious but better fit, and no disappointment because of rejections to places that student wouldn't have been happy going to anyway.

In fact, if the only pool is places the student really wants to go for good reasons they have researched before applying, and the student accepts that they might not get in anywhere but CC is a good alternative, then any acceptance is a joy and rejections were already accepted as par for the course. But it probably means more likely admissions because colleges can tell they really fit. Again, in the event of fewer admissions, it means there is no disappointment only happy choices to make between places already chosen as good options, including CC transfer.

Happiness with these outcomes depends a lot on expectations, and planning from the start to have only choices that one is happy with makes (has made) admit time not stressful at all in the way described above. I know that's probably too paradigm busting to college planners, but it's a way healthier process, including now.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Holiday Fun in San Francisco- Take the Walking Tour for An Evening of Sparkle!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,667 views

Pacifica’s first brewery closes its doors
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,308 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,708 views


Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund

For the last 30 years, the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund has given away almost $10 million to local nonprofits serving children and families. 100% of the funds go directly to local programs. It’s a great way to ensure your charitable donations are working at home.