When I was in high school, I was accepted to my best friend’s dream school.
She, unfortunately, was not.
And to make it even worse, it wasn’t my dream school, so I didn’t accept their offer.
Even though I know that my acceptance had nothing to do with her rejection, I couldn’t help but feel like I had taken an opportunity from her, and it was a really difficult situation to navigate.
To spare you the same awkward situation that I went through, I partnered with Lexie Fahey, an amazing therapist and one of my best friends. She works at Paradigm Malibu, a teen treatment center, and runs a therapy blog.
She shared her absolute best advice for friends going through this difficult situation and I must say, I truly wish I had heard her advice when I was in high school.
You’ll learn how to show compassion if you are the friend who was accepted, how to cope if you are the friend who was rejected, and how you both can heal from this unexpected mix-up and keep the friendship alive!
Here is Lexie’s best advice:
Situation #1: Your BFF was accepted and you were rejected
FEEL ALL THE FEELINGS!!! Don’t suppress them! We are human and deserve to give our feelings the space they need to be felt.
- Communicate these feelings to a neutral party (usually parents are better than friends to avoid creating more drama).
- Don’t share alllllllll the feelings with your friend who was accepted because she will not know how to respond and she might inadvertently greet you with pity, which will actually increase your resentment toward her. (Unless she reads this blog post first and knows what not to do!!)
- If happy is a difficult one to feel, try other emotions like proud and compassionate. Instead of focusing on where you fell short, make a list of all the things that you did accomplish in the college application process. Also, feeling happy FOR someone else does not mean that we ourselves are feeling that emotion.
- Communicate your emotions by focusing on “I” language.
- Be wary of oversharing any anger or resentment because your BFF is on her excited wave and if you’re giving her negative vibes, she may start to feel resentment towards you!
Situation #2: You were accepted and your BFF was rejected
The first thing to remember is that you can be happy for yourself. And you shouldn’t feel bad about that.
- Use I statements rather than “you” which implies you know what she is feeling.
- Do not boast, gloat, or excessively celebrate in front of your BFF. Duh.
- Give her some space and then ask what she needs
- ASK HER how she feels about everything, rather than assuming. We are not mindreaders and when we try to be, we often misinterpret things and make things worse.
And if your BFF is feeling toxic (it happens) you can still comfort her and communicate empathy.
- First, ask HER what she needs. You may be implying feelings for her that she does not feel. Asking permission before nurturing or being involved in her processing of feelings shows respect. This also shows that you are not “feeling pity” for her.
- Pity and empathy look very different. Pity is continuously saying that you are sorry and you feel bad about the situation. But you were accepted to a school you applied to and you should not feel bad about that!! You, also, did not make the decision.
- A way to combat this is saying something like, “This is really hard and I know we built up a dream of both going to the same school. I know reality has hit us and we are both disappointed in the outcome but I do not want this to affect our friendship and I am here for whatever you may need!”
- DO NOT PROBLEM SOLVE. When people are upset the LAST thing they want to hear is something like “What if you apply in spring?” “Can we appeal it?” “I won’t go since you can’t go” “This is probably better” or “This is meant to happen.” This dismisses feelings and tries to put solutions into a process where your friend is still trying to make sense of her feelings!
Situation #1 and Situation #2:
Here is some advice for both you and your BFF so that you can keep the #friendshipgoals alive and thriving.
- All relationships go through tough times. The important thing is to stay connected during the difficult parts and talk through it.
- Silence or “distancing” doesn’t help heal the pain, it puts a bandaid over the wound.
- Don’t let this affect the time you have left together in high school. It is a long time between acceptances and when you actually leave for college and during that time you each will be creating new connections and building excitement for the school you each are going to!
- Keep doing your thang!! Keep having fun, the memories of the summer before college are filled with sentimental value, so enjoy that time together.
- Find things that you love about your school you end up going to! Find people that are also going and connect with them! Look up activities that you are excited to participate in.
- Try to see the value of independence and different experiences once you have processed your emotions.
- Get excited to visit one another!! No college is perfect and getting to see other experiences and schools is a great way to stay connected.
Alexis Fahey is a Marriage and Family Therapist Trainee at Paradigm Teen Treatment Center in Malibu, CA. For more mental health wellness tips, you can check out her blog or follow her @yourtraumaguide on Instagram.