Applying to college can be a disorienting and anxiety-ridden experience for the average soon-to-be high school graduate. For some, the college application season spurs overwhelming feelings of excitement. In contrast, others may define this educational milestone by the feelings of disappointment and shame that make an unwelcome appearance.
The emotional weight of parental expectations, financial burdens, and compiling academic expectations can debilitate star students and underachievers alike. As you decide where you want to apply and await your admissions status, you may find yourself falling victim to a classic case of imposter syndrome and relentlessly questioning your abilities to excel on a college campus.
Besides the surmounting pressure of college life as a whole, i.e., acclimating to dorm living, coexisting with a troublesome roommate, and adhering to GPA requirements, the application process itself can be a significant source of stress. Many aspiring undergraduates may feel consumed by fears of inadequate admissions essays or improperly filled-out FAFSA forms. Needless to say, this season can be quite the emotional rollercoaster for the underprepared high school senior.
As pressure from parents, school counsellors, and high-achieving peers continues to bubble, students will need to implement healthy coping mechanisms to avoid falling victim to college application season burnout. Here are a few tips to help you stay healthy, organised, and emotionally stable as you check-off your application process to-do list.
Calm your fears of rejection letters
One of the first things you can do to avoid disappointment is to calculate your chance of gaining admission before submitting applications to your top-choice universities. This way, you can avoid dumping hours of time and energy into college admissions essays, only to receive an all-too-gut-wrenching rejection letter in the mail. To use the University of Florida as an example, aspiring Gators should take a heavy dose of reality and research the University of Florida acceptance rate. Once you’ve completed this step, you should only proceed with the application process once you’ve determined that your risk of rejection is relatively low.
Begin the application process early
Starting the application process early, ideally over the summer when you have more free time, is an excellent way to quell any anxiety you feel. You’ll have time to research universities, study for any necessary entrance exams, network, and participate in extracurricular activities to bolster your application. With applications on your mind, you’ll also have more time to forge relationships with teachers to ensure you secure thoughtful letters of recommendation.
Ask for help
College applications are all generally similar, though they do have some slight variations between universities. If you have a question or don’t understand a step posted on the application, reach out for help and clarification.
In most cases, your guidance counsellors and admissions officers should be able to help answer any questions and walk you through the application process. It is quite literally their job to help you, so be sure to utilise them as a resource.
Create a to-do list
When first starting the application process, write out every task you need to complete before applying. To stay on track, record the due dates of each adjoining task. Many applicants find it useful to write these deadlines on a whiteboard in your room. That way, they’ll have a visual reminder of upcoming due dates and a way to physically cross off or erase each task once completed.
Having an organised system such as this will help ensure that you don’t miss any important due dates or forget to complete a necessary task and realise it at the last minute. Having all of this information organised can also be beneficial as you begin to apply for scholarships and financial aid.
Find support from friends
Luckily, you’re not alone in this experience. Your friends, peers, and classmates are all going through this experience as well, and it can be nice to commiserate with someone who knows what you’re going through. This time can be particularly challenging when the pressure from family members manages to weigh you down. While cocooning away from reality might be a real temptation, don’t forget to lean on your friends for support. With a sturdy emotional support system, you’ll be able to lend each other advice and a safe space to express your feelings and frustrations.
Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.
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