College Application 101: Guiding Your Child Through This Difficult Process

High school students, today, are under a tremendous amount of stress to choose and apply for the right college. But what is the right college? The truth is that there is no one correct answer. Yet, students all over the United States are pinning all of their hopes on getting accepted into colleges they believe are their dream destinations. And when they don't get in to that one special college, many end up being bitterly disappointed. That's why it's so important for you, as the parent, to help your child deal with the stress of this difficult time period. 

Increase Your Child's Odds

Your children may have worked extremely hard in order to get accepted by their dream colleges. Perhaps, they've taken a slew of AP classes, gotten almost straight As, rocked the SATs and engaged in several different extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, today, that may not be enough. According to the New York Times, some elite colleges only accepted five percent of their applicants in 2014. And, sadly, many of the students that received rejection letters were extremely bright, successful students that admissions directors called "indistinguishable" from those that were accepted. So chances are high these days that your child may receive a rejection letter from a dream school. That's why you should: 

  • Encourage your children to apply to a number of colleges. Although there is no right or wrong number, Collegeboard suggests that your student should apply to between five and eight colleges.
  • Have them apply to a variety of colleges. For example, your child should select approximately one or two reach colleges, a few safety schools, and a couple of colleges that will almost surely accept your child, given their academic record and test scores. 
  • Suggest your children apply early to one of their safety schools. Because of the high rejection rates at many of the colleges, some students get stressed out that they won't be accepted at any school. So receiving an acceptance letter from a safety school can be an excellent way to relieve this particular stress from your student's shoulders. 
  • Widen your search. Perhaps, your child has heard of a Catholic university that offers a unique program they're interested in, but your family is not particularly religious. Instead of immediately dismissing the idea, go visit the Catholic university. The campus may be an excellent fit for your student. As for the religious aspect, in most cases, it shouldn't be a problem as Catholic schools to welcome students of all faiths. See websites like for more information.
  • Encourage your children to apply early. Senior year can be a blur of activities, finals and taking SAT tests, so it's best to start the application process early in the year when their schedule may be less full. 

If a Rejection Does Arrive 

In the long run, rejection can be a learning tool that helps a person to grow and become a better person. In the short run, it can hurt like heck. So if your child gets a rejection letter:

  • Sit down and discuss with your child how difficult the college selection process has become and that they should not take a rejection personally, that colleges are receiving so many applications today, they can no longer accept every single qualified student.  
  • Emphasize that the college your student will go to is not going to determine their future
  • Suggest alternatives. If your child is dead set on one particular college, tell your student that they can attend another college or a community college for a year or two and then reapply. Typically, it is much easier to get accepted into a college as a transfer student. 

It's important to remember that this is a very stressful time for your child, and that what they'll need the most from you is your understanding and love.