By Ariane Lange
Parents of graduating seniors took college rejection in stride this year, upper school deans said. The deans speculated that this yearâs realistic expectations were a result of media attention on the intense competition of getting into college.âThese parents are aware of the competition,â Upper School Dean Vanna Cairns said.Still, a minority of parents take rejection worse than their children do â Cairns said every year each dean has one or two families who are particularly disappointed. Cairns has a simple explanation: parents arenât seasoned in applying to college.âWhatâs consistent about the [college application] process is the element of surprise,â Cairns said. âIâve gone through it 25 times. Theyâve only gone through it once.âUpper School Dean Rose-Ellen Racanelli said she thinks parents often understand on an intellectual level how difficult it is to get into college, but they donât accept it on an emotional level.âSometimes that sense of reality takes hold and sometimes it doesnât,â Racanelli said.The poor coping of parents can make it more difficult for students to get over rejection.âParents will say they are disappointed for their kids, but the kids will look at that disappointment and feel that their parents are disappointed in them,â said Dr. Mark Goulston (Billy â08, Emily â03, Lauren â00), a psychiatrist.Cairns tells parents to keep their negativity away from their children because the ânegative energyâ can make it harder for students to move on.âIf [students] can just feel it, it will pass pretty quickly,â Goulston said. âParents will keep it alive.âIf parents want to know if theyâre impeding their childrenâs process of moving on, he said parents should talk to their children.âRather than being defensive, ask your children, âDo you feel that Iâm more disappointed in what happened or more disappointed for you?ââ Goulston said. If the child feels that the parent is more disappointed in what happened, then itâs time for the parent to âback off.ââThey have to let go of their attachment,â Goulston said.Parents over invest in the college application process and in their childrenâs success in general, Goulston said. He blames projective identification.âThe parents will sort of project themselves into the kid and think the kid must be disappointed because theyâre disappointed,â Goulston said.Cairns and Racanelli agreed that once students start choosing their colleges, parents tend to get over their initial disappointment. Cairns said that whoever isnât over rejection by May 1 will get over it by November.âI know that next November when the child is home for Thanksgiving and they knock on that door, theyâll be glowing,â Cairns said.