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Managing stress when navigating the college admissions process

Don't let this be you as you navigate college admissions
"Desperate Teenage Boy" by David Castillo Dominici

Are you so focused on getting into your first choice college that anxiety has gripped you? Do you wake up at night unable to breathe? Is fear ruining your high school experience? If so, you are not alone.

The high school experience, once thought of as the most enjoyable and exciting four years of an individual’s life, is now fraught with worry as the admissions process becomes more convoluted and far more competitive. Unfortunately, stress is detrimental to your health, and worse, there really is not an easy solution for this problem. Getting into college, especially for competitive students seeking admission at selective colleges, is stressful. However, stress, while it cannot be eliminated, can be managed. Below are a few pointers on how to handle the stress of the college admissions process.

First, go ahead and face the worst-case scenario head on. For instance, let us suppose that Harvard University, notorious for its 6% admission rate, is your ultimate goal. What will happen if you do not get in? Will your life really be ruined? Are all non-Harvard graduates really living in a cardboard box under a bridge? You will still get into another college, perhaps even one that is a better fit for you. Furthermore, remember that you can still be an incredible success in life without an Ivy League diploma. For instance, Meredith Viera, a Harvard reject and Tufts graduate, became a successful correspondent and has hosted ABC and NBC network talk shows. Not a bad worst-case scenario; is it?

Next, make sure that you have a back up plan. Do you have one (or preferably several) second choice college(s) in mind that is (are) an equally good fit(s) and less competitive? These colleges should be sure acceptances for you. Consider using an independent college admissions counselor who travels to colleges and can help guide you in choosing your second choice colleges.

Third, make a plan and stick to it. While this should go beyond saying, study and do your homework WITHOUT procrastinating. Waiting until the last minute always compounds the stress. Furthermore, figure out what extra curricular activities should go on your resume and get active in them. Employ at the least a basic calendar to keep you on track. In your calendar, keep a to-do list and mark off deadlines. If it helps you, schedule your nonschool days for yourself. Nothing will take the edge off of stress more than knowing that you are doing what you need to be doing to get into the school of your choice.

Finally, consider some stress reduction activities. While there are no one-size-fits-all measures, activities such as meditation, noncompetitive exercise, and listening to music can help with stress. A trained MBTI practitioner such as many independent college admissions counselors, can administer for you the MBTI Personality Inventory and use the results to determine some of the best stress reduction activities for your personality.

So while you cannot eliminate stress from the college admissions process, there are ways to reduce and control it. By following the advice above, you can reduce the stress, enjoy your high school experience more, and save your health.

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