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Navigating the College Enrollment Decision Process

Updated: Apr 12

“Your worth is not based on the name of your college.” I could not agree more with Jennifer Breheny Wallace's quote; it truly keeps everything in perspective.

April can be a stressful month for seniors and their families. This year has been particularly harrowing: the Wall Street Journal called it “the most chaotic, confusing college admission season in years,” while New York Magazine dubbed it “the craziest college admission season ever.”

As students are weighing their college decisions, ideally, they have options. Even so, there is usually some level of disappointment to navigate because they didn’t get into every school they applied to. So, how can parents and other close support people help students navigate this trying time? Below are some tips to guide you through the various pieces of news that have arrived in your child's inbox recently.


Your senior likely formed a well-balanced list months ago consisting of a mix of reach, target, and likely schools, and, ideally, there is at least one acceptance to get excited about. Go ahead and celebrate the wins! But also bear in mind that there are other students, maybe even in your family's close circle, who didn’t get that same good news, so be sensitive. 

If your teen is trying to decide between two or three schools, try to attend colleges' “admitted student” days to help provide some clarity. If that’s not an option, make a good, old fashioned pros/cons list. 


If your senior was waitlisted at her dream college, she should follow the school's guidelines on how to stay on that waitlist. See my blog post about what to do if you’re waitlisted:

Bottom line-if the college will allow the applicant to submit a letter of continued interest, make sure the student submits something sincere, applicable, and thoroughly proofread (!).

Important note: If you get accepted off of a waitlist after you have enrolled at another college, you are allowed to break your enrollment contract with that school; however, you will lose your deposit. 


There's no way around it- these can really hurt, and it can be exceedingly difficult not to take the news personally. My advice is, let your teen grieve the news appropriately, but then encourage them to go fall in love with one of their options. Trying to appeal a rejection is almost always fruitless, and calling the admissions office to find out why your application was not accepted will only make it harder to move on. A valuable nugget I heard recently was, “rejection is redirection.” So true! We all grow in indispensable ways from our redirections.

For parents of seniors, remember that this is the first adult decision your children will make (largely) on their own. You have hopefully already signed off on the list and approved the cost of attendance, so try to be a sounding board for your senior instead of making this decision for them, or letting your own opinions get in the way.

As always, please reach out to me if you have questions about anything college-related! And good luck helping your student make this meaningful decision.

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