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Stop the Insanity! Staying Sane During the College Admissions Process

With the November 1 early college deadline this week, the college application frenzy is going fast and furious. From filling out the Common Application to writing and rewriting essays to scheduling interviews, it is very easy for students (and parents) to get caught up in the flurry of activity that comes with the college admissions process. However, while a little stress during this process is unavoidable, this doesn’t mean that the next few months have to be complete chaos. Here are a few simple steps to help students keep their cool during the throes of college application fever:

Set realistic goals for yourself rather than trying to accomplish everything at once.

Take Time to De-stress – If you are feeling overwhelmed, sit down and take a deep breath. Go for a walk, talk to a friend (about something fun – no college talk!), or do something else to help you relax. While a little pressure can certainly help motivate some people, being a complete basket case will only make the experience worse.
Set Realistic Goals – After you have calmed down, you need to come up with a game plan. Make a list of what needs to be done, such as completing applications, writing supplemental essays, and confirming teacher recommendations. Then, decide what you can realistically accomplish on a given day, taking into account your school and extracurricular schedule.

Don’t Show All of Your Cards – It is understandable that students want to share their college plans with their circle of friends. However, I strongly urge you to resist this temptation. In many cases, full disclosure can do more harm than good. Besides causing you to second guess many of your decisions based on your friends’ unintended criticisms (“Why are you looking at that school? It’s in the middle of nowhere!”), you also must face the inevitable questions about where you got in and where you didn’t. Finally, talking about college all of the time can be very nerve-wracking.

Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your college application. Plan ahead.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute – With good planning, you should have your application materials done well before the application deadlines for your schools. There is nothing sadder (or more stressful), than frantically typing away at a computer on December 31 (or, for those of your doing Early Action or Early Decision, October 31), trying to crank out one more essay before the clock strikes midnight. Besides depriving yourself of a good time, working while under duress can cause you to make careless mistakes that undermine your best efforts. Even if you write a brilliant essay for a college, the admissions officer might be distracted by the numerous typos you didn’t have a chance to correct.

It is also a good idea to submit your application several days before the final deadline. That way you can make sure that the school received it without any errors. I knew a student in California who was applying to several schools on the East Coast. She worked furiously on an application that was due by midnight on December 31 and hit the “Submit” button at 11:59 pm. Unfortunately, she didn’t take into account the time difference, and the school’s server would not accept her application.

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