Alright, here’s the deal – college applications are hard. We all know it, let’s get it out in the open. I mean, how could it not be intimidating? I’m supposed to take the last twelve years of my life and convey them to strangers through a few 500-word essays and packets of paperwork? How am I supposed to do that without going crazy?
Well, as someone who went through the process (and lived to tell the tale), and as someone whose sister is currently applying to colleges, here’s my advice to all you high school seniors on how to stay positive during the process:
1. Try your best to maintain perspective
I distinctly remember working on my Common App and thinking to myself, “Wow, I’ve accomplished pretty much nothing in the past four years.” Now, obviously that’s not true, but sometimes when you’re faced with stressful situations, your brain does Simone Biles-level gymnastics to psyche you out. College admissions committees are on your team – they want to see you in the best possible light, so why shouldn’t you? Focus on highlighting the lessons you’ve learned and the impacts you’ve made, whether it’s as president of a school club or as head babysitter for your family. Both are meaningful, and both give powerful insights into who you are as a human.
In addition, remember that admissions committees look at you as a whole human (that’s what holistic review means)! You are so much more than your test scores and your GPA. Remember that as you write your essays.
2. Remember that you are worthy and deserving of success (especially when those rejections start coming in)
My friends and I helped each other out immensely with this point! Having your friends hype you up is honestly one of the most life-affirming experiences anyone can have. Remember that you’re working hard towards an admirable goal, and if you can’t, lean on the people that know you best to remind you. Those absurdly positive quotes with aesthetic backgrounds can help sometimes, too.
I applied to an absurd number of schools (2/10 would not recommend), and consequently received an absurd number of rejections. One day, there were a bunch of college admissions decisions coming out at the same time, which did absolute wonders for my stress levels. While I was waiting for all of the decisions to come out, I worked off my anxiety by making cookies. It’s surprising how many woes can be healed by a warm, homemade, chocolate chip cookie.
3. Make time and space away from the process
My friends and I made a pact not to discuss college applications and admissions during lunch. Instead, we would take walks and talk about all the goals we had for college, and the experiences we were looking forward to. Applying to college should not take over your entire life, and if it does, take a step back!
4. Try not to compare yourself to others
The need to compare myself to others practically ran in my blood. This was not made any better by my parents’ anxiety about going through the college admissions process in America for the first time. They would continually ask me where other students got in, what their extracurriculars were, what their test scores were, etc. Although they meant well, this is an incomplete way of looking at the admissions process. Your application should tell your story, and regardless of how much you know about your classmates’ test scores and extracurriculars, you can never know their entire life story. You can’t draw meaningful conclusions from incomplete data sets, so performing any type of comparison between you and someone else would lead to specious results. So, although it can be hard, try not to worry about what others are saying and doing, and especially try not to let it influence your own application.
5. Give yourself grace
You will have to write a lot of essays, not to mention fill out forms, apply for scholarships, and ask teachers for recommendations NOT TO MENTION keep your grades up, participate in extracurriculars, and generally be a regular high school student. That’s a lot! So, don’t beat yourself up if you have to take a mental health day, or if you spend a full weekend catching up on Netflix and doing absolutely nothing else. Being able to recognize your body’s limits and giving your mind the opportunity to decompress is a valuable skill going into college, and definitely one I wish I worked on more in high school.
6. Remember that it’s hard for a reason
I tend to believe that the point of the college application process is to make you introspect and reflect on who you are as a student and as a person. Further, it pushes you to imagine the type of student and community member you will be in college. THIS IS INSANELY HARD TO DO. It can sometimes be difficult to take a close look at yourself, but it is a necessary skill. Plus, you can figure out some pretty neat things about yourself! Example: I knew I liked biology and that I wanted to study it, but it wasn’t until I was asked to explain ‘why’ in an essay that I was able to put it into words. Embrace the opportunity to learn more about yourself, even if writing all those supplementals is a pain in the neck.
Self-love is difficult to cultivate, especially during the college application process. Hopefully these tips ease your mind as you go through your senior year! See you all on the other side 🙂