College Confidential Community Offers 'Rejection Relief' for Students and Parents

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Adding humanity to college admissions: the Web's busiest community for college-bound students and parents, College Confidential, provides a place for the record number of rejected students to commiserate, accepted students to celebrate, and for all to make their final college plans. The community sees its traffic peak during the spring months when decisions are announced, generating over 20 million pageviews and a half-million unique visitors each month.

A record number of high school seniors ripped open thin envelopes that bore bad news from Ivy League and other top-choice colleges in recent days; now, many have found solace from a community of "friends" they have never met while they prepare to make their final college decision by the end of April.

College Confidential (http://www.collegeconfidential.com/ ) attracts thousands of visitors each day from around the world to its popular college discussion forum and provides a place where students and parents can find advice and support through all stages of the college search and application process. The site generates more than 20 million page views and a half million unique visitors each month, and has forums for hundreds of individual colleges. But it is right now, as countless seniors struggle to put disappointments behind them, that the College Confidential community can be most comforting.

For instance, last week, one frequent forum visitor wrote, "My Duke rejection hurt... so did my waitlist at Wellesley... " my heart is still bleeding and my eyes still sting but I cannot cry for some stupid reason.. all I have is this empty weird feeling..."

But the lament was quickly followed with reassuring words from another CC reader:

"… just because you're rejected is not a reflection on you personally. … In the college admissions process, anything can happen … Good luck to all you hard working kids out there - and please don't let rejection overwhelm you. It's the school's loss - not yours! You'll end up in a school that really wants you and appreciates your efforts. Maybe you'll even end up with merit $ that you never expected!"

Although well-intended platitudes can sometimes fall flat when wounds are still raw, anecdotes often speak more loudly. One CC member, known as "Old but Wise," who spent three decades as a high school counselor, told forum readers about a former student who was denied in the early-decision round by a dream college. Old but Wise encouraged him to attend another college, which the student and his parents had never heard of and which they were reluctant to select. Yet, this student encountered "Old but Wise" years later, he effused about his wonderful college experience, the great wife he'd met there, the terrific kids their union had produced, and his successful career which included supervising underlings who'd graduated from the school that had turned him down.

Other happy-ending sagas like this one abound on the CC site and provide encouragement to those who won't be heading where they'd hoped in September. Yet one post in particular has really put denials in perspective for many seniors. "DontGiveUp," now a student on a U. of California campus, recounts the atrocities he witnessed as U.S. soldier in Iraq, where he landed after being unable to afford college straight from high school. "My time in Iraq changed me," DontGiveUp maintains. "That hellish sandbox may have almost killed me more times than I can count, but I'm grateful for the lessons it taught me. I by no means recommend ANY of you join the army, but I hope that you guys could take something from this story. The end is not near if Brown rejected your 4.5 GPA."

Noted one CC visitor in response: "You just made my day! I woke up thinking about all the waitlists I got and I'm feeling my day will be of an entirely different mood." "This makes me feel better about my rejection to Pomona College," said another.

In addition to the assistance provided on the discussion forum, College Confidential also offers independent college counseling services throughout the year "But we see our queries spike at this time every spring when students who were denied or waitlisted at their top-choice colleges come to us in a panic," says Dave Berry, CC's Director of Counseling. "I do what I can to help, when I think there's a chance of changing the outcome, but I also try to turn their focus to the colleges that have already said yes."

"Usually the students who approach us in March or April are those we wish we'd heard from much earlier, when their target-college lists and applications weren't yet final" adds CC Senior Counselor Sally Rubenstone. "We always try to put at least one sure-thing school on each roster--a place that the student is truly excited about, and not just a so-so 'safety' that he or she doesn't really want to attend."

This year was particularly brutal for applicants to Ivy League and similar elite colleges and universities, with schools like Harvard and Columbia receiving record numbers of applications and rejecting nine out of ten applicants.

Notes Berry, "it's impossible to shield every senior from disappointment, and we're glad that those who didn't get the news they'd hoped for can find consolation in the College Confidential community."

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ROGER DOOLEY
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