My son was rejected from every college to which he applied except his safety school. He seems very depressed as well as angry and embittered with the entire idea of college. What can I do to support him and what can he do for himself?

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Maryann Aita, Writer and Expert Tutor

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I'm sorry to hear that your son didn't have as much luck in applying to college as he thought. I got into a school I really loved, but it was the only school that accepted me, which was disappointing. It felt like so much work that didn't pan out the way I had expected it to for years.

It's important to remind your son that the reason this school accepted him is that they felt he would be a good fit for the school and the school would be a good place for him. I was disappointed when I didn't get into my top choice colleges, but, after graduating from the school I did get into, I realized that the school that did choose me was probably the best place I could have gone. Of course, this is something he can only find out with time.

Visiting the school sounds like a great idea, if possible. Seeing the campus, meeting other students, and getting a feel for the area now that he's been accepted may be reassuring. If there is an admitted students day, I would highly recommend going. He'll be with other students who got accepted and may find a sense of community there. And, as far as other students are concerned, no one has to know this was his safety school and only option.

For now, I would give your son some time. Be encouraging, but I'd advise against pushing too hard to make his safety school sound great. Give him time and be supportive, but if he gets to know the school, I think he will get excited about the fact that he is going to college. But let him know it is also not the end of the road. As another expert mentioned, he does have the option to transfer if he finds he's unhappy there, but he can always give it a try.

Scarlet Michaelson, English and Writing Teacher

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This is a tough situation– I've been there and I remember what it's like. Looking back now, I see how my thought process was just a little bit warped. Where you go to college doesn't matter as much as you think it does at the time. That being said, there are things you can do to change the situation. As other experts mentioned, you can appeal. Some people are successful at this. You can also transfer, whether from the safety school or from a community college. I wouldn't give up on college altogether, however. The popularity of American students taking a 'gap year' has increased in the past few years. Perhaps now could be a good time to travel, work, or do something intriguing before going into University.

Anonymous, Former graduate student

Not getting into any of the schools you wanted to can be real tough. My brother was in the same situation. I will give you the same advice I gave him. First of all, if your son believes that he deserves to get into a school that he was rejected from, he can always appeal. I have a friend that appealed to a school and eventually got into the school. There may be a small chance, but it's a last-ditch effort to get into a rejecting school that many may not know about.

However, you should let your son know that just as important as the college that you attend is how you do in that college. It doesn't matter too much that you got into an Ivy League school if you fail out of the classes. Conversely, if your son achieves a stellar GPA at his safety school, it may propel him just as far in life as any of the other colleges he applied to. It really comes down to how you spend your experience and time at your college. Let this turnout be a motivator for him to work hard at his safety school and really show his potential.

After making new friends and new connections at school, your son may likely learn to like his safety college and be glad that he attended in the first place. Case in point, my brother swore that he would work hard so that he could transfer to a "better college" when he was only accepted to his safety school. Now, months later, he is really enjoying himself and glad that he is attended that college. He quickly learned to move on and enjoy the opportunities that have presented themselves to him, despite him being at his safety college. I hope this advice helps you and your son and I wish him the best of luck!

University Tutor, World's largest global marketplace for independent tutors.

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As another expert mentioned here, this situation is more common than you and your son might think. Many students are accepted to no colleges, or only to their safety schools. The important thing to remember is that your son has options - he can attend his safety school, which he might fall in love with or ultimately transfer from. He can also reapply to college next year.

This last option is untenable to many, but if his safety school is a poor fit, delaying higher education for a year can allow your son to gain valuable experience in his intended career field, to participate in academic gap years, and to reconsider his wants in a college.

Schools reject students for any number of reasons, not all of them personal, so the most powerful thing you can do is to remind him that this experience does not make him any less smart or any less wonderful.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I've seen students go through this, and I'm sure it is so much harder to watch your son struggle in this way. I wonder how his friends did. Did most of them get into their "top" schools? Is this one reason he has been so hard on himself? I am sure that many students in his school have had his same experience... he just might not know them. I don't know what his plans are, but you might remind him that he can apply to his "top" schools again once he gets his undergraduate degree and applies to graduate school. I know many people (including myself) who couldn't go to their favorite undergraduate schools for a variety of reasons (grades, money, etc), but by the time they graduated, they were in a much better position to find a place in a graduate program. For many people, this is the degree that they identify with more.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I've seen students go through this, and I'm sure it is so much harder to watch your son struggle in this way. I wonder how his friends did. Did most of them get into their "top" schools? Is this one reason he has been so hard on himself? I am sure that many students in his school have had his same experience... he just might not know them. I don't know what his plans are, but you might remind him that he can apply to his "top" schools again once he gets his undergraduate degree and applies to graduate school. I know many people (including myself) who couldn't go to their favorite undergraduate schools for a variety of reasons (grades, money, etc), but by the time they graduated, they were in a much better position to find a place in a graduate program. For many people, this is the degree that they identify with more.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I've seen students go through this, and I'm sure it is so much harder to watch your son struggle in this way. I wonder how his friends did. Did most of them get into their "top" schools? Is this one reason he has been so hard on himself? I am sure that many students in his school have had his same experience... he just might not know them. I don't know what his plans are, but you might remind him that he can apply to his "top" schools again once he gets his undergraduate degree and applies to graduate school. I know many people (including myself) who couldn't go to their favorite undergraduate schools for a variety of reasons (grades, money, etc), but by the time they graduated, they were in a much better position to find a place in a graduate program. For many people, this is the degree that they identify with more.

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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That is a hard experience to have--and as a teacher, it is hard to watch as well. Now that the "safety school" is his choice, is there a way to reframe it as his top choice? I would suggest visiting the school again with fresh eyes, seeing it as a viable choice. Maybe being on the campus and seeing that it is a great choice as well will help him shift his attitude. I will say that college is what you make of it, so as long as that school offers him the possibilities and majors he seeks, it is a great start.

And remind him that lots of students transfer. Perhaps you could suggest trying the school for a year, taking mostly general education courses that would transfer to a different school.

I wish you both well!

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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This is something that happens more than people think. First, let him know he is not alone in this issue. Although this is a temporary setback, he needs to know that he is going to be successful. I would first sit down with him and ask him what are his career aspirations. Have they changed?

From here, list places where he can gain work experience or possible try to get into a post secondary institution. For example, a community college is a great place to start slowly, build up his gpa and credits where he can eventually transfer to a college of his choice.

Having him visit a career center would be another good suggestion I'd recommend. Here he can see as well as get some expert advise from professionals who may have a better insight on his ambitions.

Lastly, I would see if it is possible to get some feedback from the places where he was not accepted so that he can rebuild or strengthen those aspects for future applications.

Good luck!

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