The training starts now

Parents of high school underclassmen, imagine if you spent the next year (or two years, or three years) feeding or even initiating your student’s desire to go to the senior prom with any member on the short list of the class’s most popular kids.

Maybe if we get you the right clothes, she’ll be more likely to say yes?

I heard he likes athletes, so you should definitely keep playing basketball.

I know some people who can introduce you to her parents. If you make a great impression, that should definitely help your chances. 

If the big senior prom match doesn’t come to fruition, your student will have a long way to bounce back.

Sure, you could say all the right things about it being their loss, there are plenty of fish in the sea, anyone who can’t see how special your student is doesn’t deserve to date them, etc. But you’ve also got a lot of history to unravel. All that time spent building up the supposed ideal choices will make it a lot harder to let those choices go when they’re no longer available.

This month, college admissions news is arriving for seniors. And while there will be lots of celebrating, there will also be plenty of disappointment, even heartbreak. Every one of those students will bounce back eventually. But some will do so much faster than others. Those who embraced the idea that what a student does in college is more important than where they do it, who viewed the process as an exciting journey rather than an arms race, who are excited about all the learning, growth, and fun that will likely be found at any of the schools that ended up on their list, those are the families who will move past this bad news and quickly focus on the good.

But the families who spent much of their college search focusing only on a short list of famous colleges, who’ve built up the idea in their mind that an admission to one of those schools is the necessary validation for all their hard work, those are the students (and parents) who will have a longer period of admissions decision mourning.

Freshman, sophomore, and junior families, you’ll make the process a lot more enjoyable and successful, and you’ll be far more likely to push through any admissions disappointment quickly, if you lay the groundwork now. Find the enjoyment in the process. Look for the right schools, not just the famous ones. And reinforce that the opportunity to go to any college is just that, an opportunity. There is no such thing as an admissions decision that leaves a student ruined—or all set—for life.

Essays, applications, interviews–all of that can wait until later. But the attitude and approach to the process? That training starts now.