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10 Ways to help a child when their college application is refused

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Antonio Guillem | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 05/28/24

If your child is in a state of despair over not being able to attend their dream college, here are some points to help.

It’s that time of year when many young people will have to cope with the devastating blow of not getting into the college of their dreams. And navigating these college application refusals can be a significant emotional challenge for any young person. However, by providing empathetic support, encouraging resilience, and fostering a positive outlook, you can help your child turn this setback into a stepping stone for future success.

The following 10 steps will allow you to emphasize their worth and potential, explore new opportunities together, and trust that this experience will contribute to their growth and strength.

Acknowledge Their Feelings

First, it’s crucial for a parent to listen and empathize. Let your child express their disappointment and frustration. Acknowledge their feelings without immediately trying to fix the situation. “I understand how much you wanted this. It’s okay to feel upset.”

Reframe the Situation

Try to focus on effort and growth. Emphasize the hard work they put into their application and how this experience is an opportunity for growth. You should state how their dedication and effort were incredible, and this is just one step in life’s long journey.

Explore Other Opportunities

Take time to consider alternative paths. Encourage looking into other colleges, gap year programs, or internships that could offer valuable experiences and that might prove an even better fit for them.

Encourage Self-Reflection

Use this opportunity to re-evaluate interests and goals. You can take the time to reassess and possibly refine their goals and passions. Try to zone in on other interests they may have and if they’ve taken them into consideration.

Highlight Their Worth

It’s always hard to be confronted with failure so you’ll need to affirm your child’s talents. Remind them of their unique talents and strengths, independent of any college’s acceptance. Point out that their skills and talents are particular to them, and they will lead them to success wherever they go.

Model Resilience

Sharing stories of overcoming setbacks can be very helpful. Share stories of people, including saints or family members, who faced setbacks but persevered. Reminding your child that you and other people they admire have had to contend with disappointment and failure will hopefully bring them a sense of comfort and inspiration.

Encourage Faith and Trust

It’s always important to instill hope. While keeping the tone light, you can gently remind them that God has a plan for everyone, even when the path isn’t clear. Remind them that sometimes, the best opportunities come from unexpected places.

Celebrate Small Victories

Acknowledge other achievements. Celebrate other achievements and milestones they’ve reached, reinforcing their abilities and accomplishments. You should point out everything else they’ve achieved in the year, as well as the less tangible personal growth they’ve undoubtedly achieved.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

It’s always useful to stay optimistic. Encourage an optimistic outlook on the future, emphasizing that one refusal does not define their potential or future success. Reinforce the notion that this is just a small part of their story, and their future is full of exciting possibilities.

Offer Continuous Support

It’s vital to remain present. Ensure your child knows you are there for them, ready to support and help them navigate the next steps. Hearing you state that you’re in this together and you’ll offer support every step of the way can help inspire your child to take a deep breath and take the next step.

Catholic LifestyleChildrenEducationMental Health
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