When my 25 year old son reads this post, he’ll text me a signature one-word text:
It was college admissions decision season nine years ago. I was a level-headed college coach by trade, and a freakish, anxiety-ridden beast of a Mom at heart. Each morning, I’d watch my son leave for school in his fresh 1987 Toyota Corolla, and get to work. Coffee. Check. Phone off. Check. I needed complete focus. I was on a week-long mission to crack the code of the password to my son’s University of Southern California applicant site, which I had so correctly told him was “his personal business.” While I coached my client families to let their kids “own the application process,” I attempted and re-attempted every possible password. Riley? (family dog). Nope. Nomar? (favorite childhood Sox player). Nope. I lovemymom2011? (A girl can dream).
Each morning I’d make my educated guesses until the warning flashed, “ your account will be locked on the next attempt.”
It was easy to justify: I had to know if my son had been rejected from his dream school before he did, right? What would I say? Would I paste a Miss America smile on my face or sob along with my baby boy? How could I fix this kind of failure? I needed to prepare.
The actual rejection story was much less dramatic. I was curled up on the couch watching Friends when my son casually stepped into the doorway, muttered “I got rejected,” then retreated to his room. I was left alone, clueless about what to say to him, and choking back the tears I was too embarrassed to let fly.
Let's admit it. Our generation can't stand to see our kids fail. Give a quick glance at your child's bookshelf; chances are it is lined with participation trophies and certificates of appreciation.
Maybe that's what makes college admissions so uniquely wrenching: for the first time in our kids’ lives, they are thrown to the wolves, to be judged by complete strangers, and there’s nothing we can really do about it.
Most of us go in to the challenges fully aware that rejection could occur. We are reminded of the competitive landscape, but we still aim high. Yet somehow, when the rejection letter arrives, we are heartbroken. How will my child bounce back?
Like any good college coach, or at least the honest ones, I'll admit that I've worked with families through their fair share of rejections.
Here's my advice for parents:
Guinea Pig Kid Number 1 graduated from his next-to-last-choice school with honors, and reports he can’t imagine being so happy at any other school. He doesn’t live in my basement, and he is happy and successful in Cambridge. I've never hacked the passwords of kids numbers 2 and 3.
About the Author
Jen Rosier is owner and founder of PrepU Admissions and owner of Tutor Doctor Suburban Boston. For more than 25 years, Jen and her team have helped thousands of families from all over the world to envision and achieve their academic dreams. An expert in test prep and admissions, Jen is all about de-stressing and simplifying the admissions process. Oh, and helping families to afford a college education!
Jen Rosier is owner and Founder of PrepU and owner of Tutor Doctor Suburban Boston. An expert in admissions and test prep, Jen is all about simplifying and de-stressing the admissions process. Oh, and helping families afford an education!