(NEW YORK) -- Ah, April. Spring is in the air and college admissions letters are on the way to mailboxes across the nation. With many schools reporting more applicants than ever, teens and parents are bracing for the news: will it be the proverbial "big envelope" or the sting of rejection?
Though rejection letters have always been par for the course for undergraduate hopefuls, plummeting acceptance rates and tough competition in the college market suggests that teens today are likely to face more rejection and higher emotional costs than their predecessors just a few years ago.
How can parents and teens keep their sanity in this high-stakes atmosphere, especially when the dreaded, and usually inevitable, rejection letters come? Here are some pointers that psychologists and admissions experts offered parents and teens when it comes to coping with an acceptance let-down:
- "Number one, be realistic. This year is a perfect storm of a tremendous applicant pool. If you get rejected, realize that it's not something about you personally. They only have a certain number of slots and you could be a very well qualified applicant and still not get in," says Deborah Pearson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston
- A lot of it is luck of the draw. "Understanding that, especially for top schools, it's always going to be a long shot, may help you prepare a little for the disappointment of a possible rejection," says Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University and author of You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10 to 25.
- Celebrate the accomplishment of admission for the schools you do get into, says Pearson. Parents and teens should be focusing on the options at hand and getting excited about where they know they have the option of going. These schools may turn out to be a better fit for them
- Research shows that there's very little connection between where one goes to college and success in the workplace later on, says Steinberg. The number of years of education is a much better predictor of success than the name of the school
- Finally, don't blame yourself. "You cannot be responsible for everyone else who has applied. You can only be responsible for yourself and what you've done over the course of your education," says Mabel Freeman, assistant vice president of Undergraduate Admissions and First Year Experience at Ohio State University.
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