Not Our Alma Mater? What to Do When Kids Don’t Get in the College They Want

Every parent has a dream college for their kids—but, what happens when they don’t make the cut?

We place such a high value on our kids’ college because that’s the place where we meet lifelong friends and where we start on the job market.

Although we’re familiar with the Big Four—University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo, La Salle, and University of Santo Tomas (UST)—we also know it’s a tough battle to get in and stay in. So some of us start telling our kids about the “glory days” of being from the Big Four. Some even drag the family to UAAP games!

But things can happen like financial constraints or not passing the entrance exam. So how can we console our kids when that happens?

What to Do When Kids Don't Get in the College They Want

1. Grieve with them.

Our kids choose a particular college usually for two reasons: one, it is the best school for their course of choice, and two, they want to make us happy. So when they discover that their name isn’t on the list of accepted applicants, their world will feel like it’s crashing down on them.

Reassure them that they did their best and that there are other ways to get into that college or even other colleges that they can explore! Let them know that not getting into their (in some cases, our) dream college doesn’t make them any less of a person.

2. Encourage them to write a letter of appeal.

If our kids are waitlisted or rejected from their dream college, then have them draft a letter of appeal. Usually, this is the part when our kids show their personality and just how determined they are to enter. College admissions departments usually read through these letters and gauge not just intelligence, but emotional maturity.

Just make sure that they don’t use ChatGPT or Gemini to write their letters—it looks too obvious and it doesn’t sound like them.

3. Remember that colleges do accept transfers!

So that they’re not held back a year, try enrolling them in another college first. That way, they can finish their core subjects like Math, English, and some of the Sciences. Eventually, they can focus on their majors when they finally do transfer to the college of their dreams.

Some parents even advise their kids to transfer out in the second year so at least the basics of their course are covered!

However, doing this doesn’t guarantee they won’t take up certain subjects again. Some colleges insist on retaking the core subjects especially if our kids’ aptitude in a certain subject is below their standard. So make sure to double check first!

4. Re-evaluate with them if their dream college is “the best choice.”

When we choose a college with our kids, it’s because we hear about its prestige from other families and it just sounds nice to our ears. But prestige doesn’t usually mean that all their courses are good.

For example, Mapua University may not be one of the “Big Four,” but it’s been producing quite the amount of achieving engineers. This just goes to show that the “best” choice shouldn’t be just about fame, but about how well they prepare our kids for the real world.

Yes, it’s nice to have bragging rights as parents when we say that our kids got into the “Big Four.” But let’s be honest, getting in is the easy part. The harder part is actually graduating from there.

5. Let them take a break.

High school is tiring—in both academics and school drama. Although we want our kids to just go straight away to college, not every kid thrives like that. Some may want to take a break, especially if they’re the pioneer batch of their school’s newest program. Yes, the program may sound nice and fancy, but that doesn’t mean it’s always well-thought-through.

If there’s one thing we do know, making your kid part of the pioneer batch isn’t always worth the stress. These brand-new programs are usually works-in-progress and can be highly disorganized!

6. Avoid calling the admissions ourselves!

Before we pick up that phone and pull every string we have in admissions or the college, think about how it would affect our kid’s outlook. Yes, they’ll get into the dream college—but they won’t be doing it on their own merit. They would’ve gotten in because mommy and daddy pulled some strings and that’s a big blow, not just to their confidence.

At this stage, our kids are trying to accomplish things themselves. If they do need any help from us, it should just be in the form of moral support, like finding the documents they need to support their claim for an appeal or financial aid.

What to Do When Kids Don't Get in the College They Want

The important part is that our kids finish college!

College is every kid’s starting point in society. The people they meet in their course and batch decide what kind of culture they start from.

But getting into the “Big Four” isn’t always a measure of success. Ultimately, it depends on how hard the kids work to stay and graduate from college. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter how long they take. As long as they earn their college degree, they can still be successful—depending how they use their course.

Then, if they want, they can take a course of their passion online or return to school for post graduate studies.

More about kids and college?

My Kid’s Going to College! What Now?
New Colleges of Medicine Signed Into Law: How It Helps
The Easy Drinking Guide for College Kids

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