Four Ways to Beat College Application Stress

Whether it’s high school counselors asking you about grades, college reps giving you fliers and swag, or just the fact that your older sibling got accepted into 35 colleges and your parents expect you to do the same, you might find yourself feeling the pressure during college application season. 

While there may be too many documents involved for college applications to be considered fun, they also shouldn’t give you ulcers. Here are a few handy tips to keep cool even in the middle of college application stress.

1. Keep Your Priorities in Order

First things first: What do you want out of your college experience? Be honest. And then write your honest answers down somewhere. Do you want to stay in your hometown or be at least 5,000 miles away from it? Do you want to go to a small school or a large one? Do sports matter? What about academic rankings? 

Decide what’s most valuable to you in a college and stick with it. That way, once you’ve decided you only want to attend a school with a small student body, you can rule out any larger schools that might start trying to recruit you. When you have guidelines as to what you want from a school, you’ll be able to narrow down your list of options and cut back on some of the decision-making stress. 

2. Get Advice (But Not Too Much)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s natural to seek advice from people you trust. Just try to avoid getting advice from your parents, and your counselor, and your best friend, and their cousin, and their cousin’s cool friend from Michigan, and her next-door neighbor. Everyone will give you different advice, so to avoid getting buried in different recommendations, it can be helpful to have in-depth conversations with one or two people whom you respect and who know you well, rather than accepting general tips from everyone.

If there’s a certain school you’re interested in, talk to one of their representatives. If you have a friend or family member who has always given you good advice and wants the best for you, talk to them too. And remember, no matter who you’re talking to, don’t sacrifice what you want for what someone else says you should want. The person who knows you best is you! 

3. Make a Schedule

Applying for college is a big step, and it can be stressful. If you’re not careful, it can start looming over you when you’re just trying to play video games or make a sandwich. Compartmentalization is your friend in these situations. Set aside a little time every day to research schools and work on college applications, and then force yourself not to dwell on it once that time is over. 

There’s a time to think about colleges and wonder whether you should write your application essay about that time you almost drank a whole gallon of milk at once (probably a bad idea, to be honest), but neither of them should be at 2 a.m. when you’re trying to sleep. Give yourself permission not to spend all your time thinking about applications. You deserve it!

4. Cut Yourself Some Slack

Most importantly, be kind to yourself. It’s unfortunately easy to start thinking of yourself in terms of test scores and comparisons when you’re feeling college application stress. Make a conscious effort to avoid that kind of mindset! No one can do everything, and as long as you’re putting forth a good effort, you’re already on the right track. It might not feel like it now, but you’ll get through college application season and everything will work out. And remember, if you find that you can’t stop worrying about college no matter what you do, it can be extremely helpful to take a minute to focus on your mental health by talking to a professional. 

College application stress can feel like a lot. But rather than let yourself get crushed in the tidal wave of application essays and free magnets and intrusive questions from your extended family, take a step back. Remember your priorities and get some good advice. Set aside some time to focus on your college applications and, just as important, some time to not think about college applications. Cut yourself some slack, give yourself permission to stress less, and you’ll sail through college application season in no time. 

UIUC Admissions

UIUC Admissions

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