The Envelope, Please: Helping Gifted Students Deal With College Decisions

Spring has arrived, and with it a flood of letters from college admissions committees. Gifted and nongifted students alike will need to decide before May 1, the national college decision deadline, what path they will take following high school. All of these students face important choices and changes, some of which can be particularly stressful for gifted students.

The lucky students choosing between attractive alternatives must weigh their options with regard to geography, cost, academic interests, and other factors. Some students may decide that the benefits of so-called safety schools exceed those of top-tier institutions. Other students may feel torn, experiencing anxiety about the repercussions of their decisions. It may be beneficial to visit colleges again or take virtual campus tours to remember the various schools and what the student liked and disliked about them. Students should be reassured that they can pursue their interests at whichever school they choose.

Other students may have been waitlisted at their dream college. This year, Yale waitlisted more than 1,000 students, only a tenth of whom will be offered spots in the freshman class. Students who have been waitlisted should write polite letters to admissions committees and remain optimistic while pursuing other options, difficult as that may be.

Students may feel devastated after being rejected; it's important for them to realize that their lives won't be defined by the colleges they didn't attend and that they still have many options. Parents who are used to advocating for their gifted kids can find it difficult not to take their children's rejections personally as well.

The ability to overcome adversity, as many successful people have shown, is a valuable personality trait. Emphasizing resilience, hard work, and past achievements can help gifted students realize that each person's path is unique.