As parents, we all teach our kids to reach for the stars and try their best. We never want to hinder their growth or send messages that they can’t do something.
But we also want them to know that life is sometimes full of disappointments, and there’s nothing wrong with not getting what you want. The important thing is to keep trying and not let it get you down. There are always other options.
After all, how we deal with disappointing news is a life skill that will carry our kids a lot further than things always working out for them.
As our teenagers get older and the reality of leaving home gets closer, it’s very likely that they have their heart set on a certain college to attend. This idea of a ‘dream school’ isn’t solely for the students who make high honors or excel in sports, either.
Your child might love a school in Florida simply because it’s in a warm climate close to their childhood vacation spot. They may want to go to a school in Vermont because they love to ski. Or they may have their heart set on going to a school an hour away because of its stellar education program, and they want to do their student teaching close to home.
The reason doesn’t matter. If your child has a “dream school” and they don’t get accepted there for whatever reason, they are going to feel it and be disappointed. I have three teenagers who’ve been exploring college, and I’m pretty sure they won’t all be accepted into the college of their choice.
But honestly, as much as I like when my kids have goals and are focused, the term “dream school” makes me cringe. It puts so much pressure on one option when, honestly, there are endless options out there for them to explore—whether they want to or not.
So, what can we do as parents to help them through it if it does happen and prepare them for the possibility ahead of time?
I talked with a few parents who have been through this with their own children and this is how they dealt with it.
Paulette Gangemi is a career counselor who says the “dream school” is manufactured in our teens’ minds. The most important thing we can do is to get our kids to understand that there’s “no need to have an emotional attachment to one school or another, but one can get an amazing education at many schools. There’s not one path to success.”
Tsianina Smith told us her son just went through getting denied into his dream school but, “I encouraged him to not give up. He worked really hard at a different school and is now in the very school he was denied from.”
Gail Pippin’s son had his mind set on a dream school he didn’t get into. “He later admitted he simply didn’t work hard enough and was too immature at the time,” she told me. “But this really matured him. My best advice is to remind them they can always adjust their sails and try for that dream school again later.”
As a parent, I have to constantly remind myself that my teens’ decisions aren’t about me. They are about them and their future. I realize I can try and set them up by opening their mind to the possibility they can get what they need from a variety of schools. But that won’t guarantee they will take the advice to heart.
Many times, they have to go through the struggle themselves and make adjustments to their life. This may mean changing their thought process to “at least I’m going somewhere,” or it could mean they buckle down and work harder.
No parent wants to see their child’s dreams crushed, but we know better than they do that life will go on and they may get into a school that better suits them. And when it comes to going to college and not getting in where they’d hoped, we can be there to support them. But ultimately this is a lesson they have to learn on their own.
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Hi, I’m Brad Baldridge, a college funding specialist and the owner of Taming the High Cost of College.
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