The college application process is inherently stressful. Students want something (i.e .admission to a certain college) and must produce compelling evidence (i.e. an application) that would earn them their desired outcome in a process over which they have little control. Add all the media hype surrounding college admission, parental anxiety and pressure from school and friends and you get an inevitable tinder-box of emotions waiting to blow up. However “little control” does not mean “no control” and therein lies the power to make the college admission process a bit more sane.
Items over which students have some control:
1. Parent Contribution – Parents can be incredibly helpful in the process but also can put more pressure on the student by frequent questions (which may sound like nagging) about their student’s progress on applications. The solution is for parents and the student to agree that one time during the week (maybe family dinner time on Sunday) parents get to ask all their questions about how the application process is going, progress made, etc. The beauty of this is that the parent can’t bring up the topic any other time during the week unless the student initiates it. However the student also has to be forthcoming during the pre-arranged time to talk about college applications.
2. Working on applications – Schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, jobs and friends all vie for attention during the senior year. Add to that completing numerous college applications and the stress levels mount. The solution is to set aside a chunk of time every week (say several hours on Saturday or Sunday mornings) where you will commit to plugging away at the applications, keeping in mind deadlines. By knowing that each week you have a dedicated time set aside for college applications you can spend the school week concentrating on your classes, homework, friends and activities – in short, getting the most out of your last year of high school.
3. Comparing notes with friends – Don’t engage in one-upping your friends over who has finished which application and when. The college application process isn't a race, nor do students follow the same path to college. Each student is unique and therefore your college process (and your college list) will reflect that uniqueness. Encourage each other but don’t spend time comparing every little detail of the admission process. It wastes energy that could be better spent elsewhere.
4. Best effort – In the end if you've done your best you have to just let the rest go and trust in the admission process. Most likely you won’t be admitted to all colleges on your list. However if you've researched your college list thoroughly and found institutions that are a good fit for you, there will be many options at the end from which to choose.
Remember that you only have one senior year and the college admission process is only a small part of it. Keep it in perspective and manage what you can and try not to agonize over that which you have no control. Does anyone write in their senior yearbook anything about the college admission process? Of course not! So get started making those senior year memories that are yearbook worthy and keep the college process in the background where it belongs.