The college admission process is possibly the most stressful thing you have encountered until now. It is a rite of passage into adulthood – you feel this enormous responsibility on your shoulders to choose a future for yourself. That’s enough to make anyone lose their nerve. Yet just because this anxiety is commonplace doesn’t mean you must do nothing about it. Below are some tips on how to stay positive and productive in the midst of the madness that is admission season.
Start well beforehand
Ideally, you should start right now. I know you think that there are months before you have to do anything, but summer is really the time when you should be making the first steps. Once you get things rolling, you will feel more confident. Even doing as little as creating your Common Application account and filling out the background information can kick start the process and prevent procrastination. Feeling that you get at least something out of the way will reduce your anxiety that only builds up as you keep putting things off. Don’t wait until the deadlines begin creeping up.
Also, don’t forget about the early decision and early action options available – they offer numerous benefits and their deadlines are usually around October or November. So if you haven’t started your application process, finish this reading and start right after. At least do some research and decide on your first-choice college.
Forget about writing a “perfect admission essay”
Few things stress applicants as much as the dreaded admission essay. Yes, colleges do tend to regard personal statements as a very important part of the application. Yet do not forget that it’s only a part of the entire picture. Also, those essays are usually relatively short, so they aren’t meant to tell everything there is to know about you. It must only convey one or two things that aren’t evident from other application materials. Ideally, it should give admission officers an insight into why you want to enter their school in particular.
To answer this question compellingly, the easiest way is to be honest – first of all with yourself. Get out there, look around, explore, go on a campus tour (real of VR), and chat with a current student online (colleges usually employ one to answer the questions of applicants). Don’t obsess over getting into a “high-profile” schools. Better focus on finding the one that fits your needs best: offers the major you want to take, has the right curriculum and attracts the kind of students among which you’d feel at home on campus – activists, artists, or bookish folks.
Also, while it’s okay to get some editing help, do not outsource the actual writing of your personal statement to anyone. When you ask your classmate Write my book review, I haven’t read the thing” it’s the matter of one single grade. When you ask someone to invent your motivation, you place your future in someone else’s hands. At the risk of repeating myself, your essay must not be perfect, it must be yours.
Moreover, as much as giving enough time and thought to your essay is important, you must not overdo it. Refrain from getting everyone you know and their uncle to read your essay – you will drown in their feedback and endless revision cycles. Find the courage to let it go, admit it is your best shot and submit it proudly.
Focus on things you can control
You can do your research and choose the colleges that seem perfect for you. You can fill out your application, ask teachers for recommendation letters, and write an honest essay. You can only do your best. The rest is out of your control, so let it go.
Maintain positivity and perspective. Even if it seems that the application process will never end, it will be over in a few months. Don’t make it into a mountain that hides everything else on the horizon.
Also, don’t let it spoil your senior year in high school – enjoy proms, sporting events, prepare for the exams. Find other topics to discuss with your pals apart from where they are in the process. There inevitably be that one person who’ll have completed almost everything and who will make you feel like you are falling behind. You just keep up with your own deadlines and stop comparing yourself to others.
Get serious about your sleep
Being a high-school student is stressful already. Keeping on top of all subject is a race against time and your “neat” solution to this problem is probably to steal a couple of hours from your night sleep. I am not the first one to tell you how wrong you are about it, but you will probably ignore me as you did ignore the rest of the well-meaning authors.
Sleep deprivation impairs your coping ability and makes you jumpy and unhinged more than any problem you are trying to solve in this dubious fashion. Whatever it is you are trying to achieve – better grades, more extracurriculars to make an impressive resumé – you are likely to undermine your goal by cutting down your sleeping hours. Sleep deprivation only leads to burnout, loss of creativity, and forgetfulness – the very last thing you need in the middle of your application process.
Getting enough sleep is the utmost self-care practice – and often the only one you will need. With improved memory and better reaction, it will take you less time studying and problem-solving to achieve the same or better results.
Refrain from an all-or-nothing attitude
Even if it seems that the outcome of it all will make or break your future, college is just one step on your life’s journey. Much of the application stress comes from this extreme thinking. Relax. The stakes are high, but it’s not about life and death.
Moreover, if you apply to selective colleges, the admission process is bound to be competitive. More people will be rejected than accepted. You might not be among the lucky ones. Rejection is the reality of life and you must learn to move on and try your luck elsewhere. It doesn’t mean you have failed.
You might not realize it now, but maybe the college that didn’t send you that coveted acceptance letter wasn’t right for you anyway. Maybe the one you only see as a “safe option” will become your true home and will give you skills for the future you cannot predict now. Or maybe you will pave your way to success without a degree altogether. It will all work out in the end. Take care and stay positive.
For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.