See past the decisions

This week, applicants began receiving their early application news from colleges they applied to. That means lots of jubilation, heartbreak, and in some cases, confusion over decisions that, to someone who wasn’t in the room when the decision was made, might not seem to make sense. Many of our Collegewise counselors reached out to their early applicants in advance to remind them that over the course of a student’s lifetime, the day this decision arrives will be just another day. We promised to be the first to celebrate good news or to shrug off bad news, reinforced that their work ethic and character are what will make them successful, and expressed our faith in them no matter which college they attend.

What was surprising and encouraging was just how well those messages were received.

Our words weren’t magic medicine that removed the stress entirely. But in almost every case, when the counselor reminded individual students of their particular strengths, when we encouraged them to think long-term rather than view this news as a defining moment, and most importantly, when we expressed our belief in them no matter which colleges say yes, the responses we got back were appreciative, with a sense that their spirits had been lifted and their outlook adjusted.

I mention this here to encourage parents and counselors to help students see past these decisions. Lead by example and by words. If the news isn’t good, don’t immediately begin strategizing or second-guessing. Don’t do an application autopsy in an attempt to locate what went wrong. Don’t obsess about who got in and why. That behavior just reinforces that this is a life-defining day when, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not.

Instead, remind them how much they have to offer and to look forward to wherever they go to college. Reaffirm your faith in them. And help them see past the decision today. What’s waiting tomorrow promises to be far more interesting.