03/29/2014 06:51 pm ET Updated May 29, 2014

March Madness for College Admissions Decisions

Just as the top college basketball teams are competing their way towards the April 7 National Championship Game, so are high schools seniors as they learn which colleges have accepted, waitlisted or rejected them.

If only the college admissions notification process were as simple as the elimination process for the top college basketball teams. But it's not: this March has been a notification free-for-all, as colleges have released their decisions at different dates and times. Even the form of admissions has varied. Some colleges have sent email links, while others have asked students to log in to their college portals. Others still have used snail mail; perhaps they are helping remind teenagers that there is still a postal system. The overall process has been painful for many students, as they have to wait to learn where they have been admitted, while watching others celebrate their admissions on social media.

Fortunately, we're nearing the end of notifications as April 1 is usually the last date that college release admissions decisions, giving students one month to decide. Thankfully the colleges do agree on one thing: May 1 is the national student intent to register deadline. So as seniors this week learn all the colleges that have accepted them outright, I hope that families, schools and other college advocates can sit down and help these young people realize that they have powerful options. Even if they are among the 80 percent to 94 percent of some college applicants to receive unfortunate news from top colleges, they have other fantastic options.

So let's re-focus seniors this week as we root for our favorite final NCAA teams. We can help the teenagers plan to visit the colleges that have accepted them, where they can attend classes, spend a night in the dorms, and experience other forms of authentic campus life. We can also take them to local college events and help them connect with recent alumni and current students. We can also assist them in understanding and comparing financial aid packages and then potentially appealing some offers with some updated information. Families can even try to negotiate, as some colleges will match other college offers. We can be proactive in helping seniors try to get off of waitlists, since many colleges will go to them in May and June. Finally, we can make sure they meet registration, housing and orientation deadlines.

Most importantly, I hope adults can help seniors move beyond the college notification chaos to a world of inner acceptance. While attending college will change the arc of their lives, no one college will ever change who or what they become. It's how the students take advantage of the resources at the colleges to which they matriculate that makes the ultimate difference.

So if you know any seniors for whom the past few days or weeks have been an emotional roller coaster, please help them see the strength of the colleges that did accept them. They will have a wonderful four-year experience, and if not, they can try to transfer next year if they make a strong transfer plan.

By lessening the college notification madness, we can help high school seniors happily narrow their college decisions down to the final one just as college basketball will do this week.