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This post is brought to you by the talented and insightful Shannon Presley Alexander. Through eCubed Coaching, she works with students to help them create and maintain good habits, establish and work towards their goals, and become the leaders of their own lives, amongst other things! She's awesome, and she has some awesome advice for how to cope with the stress that can accompany the increasingly competitive college admissions process.
As if life isn’t hard enough, many of you are now facing one of the most difficult things you’ve probably ever had to tackle. Applying to college is strenuous for any student, but with the rising cost of tuition, a cut throat admissions process, the acceptance rate diminishing, and an unstable job market, it's more taxing than ever before.
To make that perfect impression, you’ve put yourself through the ringer: pursued a rigorous curriculum including advanced classes, increased studying, athletics and community service, all to demonstrate your skills, abilities and remarkable character. While those activities may have put you in a better position in getting accepted by the college of your choosing, the admissions process can still be anxiety provoking. I’d like to share a few things for you to consider as you go through this phase as well as techniques to assist in minimizing the stress. As you continue reading, understand that devoting time and attention to one of these will make a difference; however, taking advantage of all of these will boost your confidence, drastically reducing your anxiety.
1. Make a strategic academic game plan, be organized and maximize your time! These are critical components in keeping your anxiety in check. When you are prepared there will be fewer “surprises” to deal with throughout the process. Knowing what you want to do is essential in figuring out where you are going and how to get there. Sounds pretty clever, right?!?! However many students are clueless about what they want to do after college, some don’t take the time to do their homework to learn what it takes to achieve their dream career. Once you have your major selected and an idea of where you want to attend:
- Get on target with time management – make a schedule, a visual reminder of upcoming deadlines. Each college may have more than one deadline: for early acceptance, early admittance, regular admittance, etc. Allocate time efficiently as you fill out applications; do not procrastinate.
- Be organized – keep a notebook or digital folders on colleges you’ve researched, deadlines, pertinent points and / or facts regarding each. You may also want to consider keeping up with an application checklist to monitor what’s been completed, unfinished tasks, etc. Track your progress in comparison to the deadline dates.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help… parents, mentors, school counselors, academic coaches, etc. Rely on your resources to assist you through this stressful time. If you have questions about the process, ask. Remember the only stupid question is the one that’s not asked. It’s better to ask now than look back at some point in time and realize you’ve taken a wrong turn because you were afraid to do so. Or maybe you just need additional support during this time, reach out! Many of those around you have been through a similar process and at this time you may even have friends encountering the same pressure.
3. Maintain a healthy mindset; be positive and optimistic yet also realistic. Have realistic expectations. I'm not saying don't stretch or challenge yourself; however, if you are a ‘C’ student don't cross your fingers thinking you’re going to get accepted at Stanford. If you didn’t do the work, you probably won’t make the cut.
4. Learn to accept rejection; this is part of life. While it isn’t fun, learning how to cope with rejection is an essential part of growing up. And chances are, during this process it is likely it will happen. Stay focused on the things you actually have control over; remember if you aren’t accepted into a specific school, it is not personal, other opportunities await.
5. Stay mentally and physically focused. I’m sure this is easier said than done; however, aim for 8 hours of sleep each night. Maintain a balanced diet and exercise. Not only does this create endorphins, a stress blocker, but is a great way to release tension. Find ways to work in fun; take time to enjoy your family and social life as well as a bit of quiet time for yourself.
Remember, while the college admissions process can be stressful, it doesn't have to be a gut wrenching, palm sweating, heart pounding process. Try and enjoy this time. It’s exciting to discover who you are and where you are going. As you go through this process, keep these tips in mind and just breathe. Soon enough you will look back and realize it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Good luck!