By Stephanie Raia, LCSW
Are you stalking the mailman? Constantly checking your email? Are you on pins and needles waiting to hear if your child was accepted at their first choice school? You are not alone. This is the time of year when students and parents are anxiously bracing themselves for the answer to, “Did I get in?”
There will be unbridled joy and celebration for those who are selected and sadness and disappointment for those who are not. For some students it might be their first experience with rejection after years of school success and a myriad of accomplishments. It may be tough to handle, especially if friends and acquaintances had better luck (yes, I said luck).
So how can we as parents be there for our kids? As always, listen, validate their feelings, try not to minimize and do your best to support their self-confidence. Remember that we did not apply to school -- our children did, and although we are rooting for them, we are here in a supporting role.
No doubt, between increased application pools and the inelasticity of class size, gaining acceptance to their first choice school has become far more competitive across the board, from affordable state universities to private elite colleges.
As you probably know, the class selection process is a conundrum. You stand to be dumbfounded by some of the results. For all you know, your child did not gain acceptance into their first choice while their “seemingly less qualified” friend did, because their parents donated a new science wing.
That said, the college your child attends does not matter as much as you think. A new study by Stacey Dale, senior researcher at Mathematics Policy Research, and Princeton's Alan Krueger updated a 10-year-old study examining elite colleges and their relationship to earning power. And guess what? “Attending a highly selective college does not make much difference in a student’s earning after college.” In fact, students rejected from elite schools did just as well financially as those who were accepted and attended that school. What correlates with success in later life are similar personal characteristics of the students applying to particular schools, not where they actually end up studying.
Also, a bit on school acceptance etiquette...
Here’s a good rule: Don’t ask and only tell if asked. You may be bursting at the seams to share your good news, but please wait for people to inquire. If your child has had a number of disappointing results, you may want to work with them regarding how to handle this at school. They may feel embarrassed or have difficulty tolerating the exuberance of those students who are elated (dare I say gloating?) about their good fortune. This is an opportunity to model empathy and grace in a situation whose significance seems monumental at the moment but is grossly exaggerated in the long run. So stop perseverating about outcomes, which you cannot change, and see if you can distract your teen with some much-deserved fun and relaxation.
Good luck and keep your fingers crossed behind your back!
Comments? Questions? Please reach me via my website: www.StephanieRaiaLCSW.com