Wednesday’s Parent: College acceptance rivalry

College admission rivalry, photo by Wendy David-Gaines

College admission rivalry, photo by Wendy David-Gaines

When it comes to college admission, there’s a fine line between bragging and sharing the good news. Parents can see the difference written all over their student’s face, especially when their student has a differing experience.

Student reaction depends on which of four categories they fit: those who got an acceptance letter, those who received a rejection letter, those who landed on the waitlist, and those who haven’t heard whether they are in or out of consideration.

The college process is stressful and difficult with a lot riding on the outcome. Although college decisions are not judgements of personal worth, they often affect the fragile self-esteem of high school seniors. Making matters worse, their friends often share a similar college list and even when others receive admission offers, financial aid awards may vary widely.

Student reaction may range the gamut from exultation to depression. This may spill over to interaction with family members and peers. As students receive responses from early decision and early action applications, it’s a good idea to prepare for the wide range of inevitable reactions. Use this time as a teachable moment to guide your family through receipt of all responses for regular admission applications. Students should be able to both share their news and consider other’s feelings.

Here are six topics for parent-student discussions about dealing with college acceptance rivalry:

  1. Just the facts It’s okay to share facts of college responses but be extra careful on social media. Schools can revoke offers of admission and have done so for reasons such as not keeping up grades and tweeting a college “dis.”
  2. Boasting Of course students with good news are bursting to share it and want others to acknowledge their accomplishments. Just be careful not to cross the above-mentioned fine line between bragging and sharing the good news. No one likes a “boaster” but the effects deepen for those with opposite results. Respect their feelings.
  3. Zipping it It’s time to change the subject when no one is asking questions or contributing comments. There will be plenty of future opportunities to chat when everyone has something to share.
  4. Silence is golden It’s okay not to want to talk college now. There’s a difference between brooding and wanting to focus on other things.
  5. Separate and different Learning how to support others is a demonstration of compassion that is separate from dealing with one’s own issues. It’s a sign of maturity and self-confidence to be happy for others or have their back when things don’t go well.
  6. Making lemonade from lemons Dealing with bad news is a life skill. Start early with a commitment to brainstorm options, look for the positive, and find the fun in tackling new challenges.

Suzanne’s great post Rivalries among college-bound teens is full of more help for dealing with college admission rivalry.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

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