Dealing with Stress in the College Search
Maryline Michel Kulewicz and Tracy Sullivan of College 101 Admissions Consultants
“I am scared, it’s such a big change”, “I am embarrassed about my SAT scores” and “Nothing has ever happened to me - I have no essay material!”. This is a very stressful time of year for rising juniors and seniors - and these are real concerns for them. Many students catastrophize the college process and it can often feel like they have a bad case of pressure-cooker brain! Too much coming at them at once, layered with watching others succeed on social media, seemingly making it all seem so easy - all of which makes the stress worse.
It is a good time to keep your eye on your teen. Anxiety, depression, and stress are real, especially in the aftermath of COVID. It is helpful to keep those communication lines open on a consistent basis and simply ask how your teen is doing. Don’t worry about how awkward you sound - just talk with your kids. They will get the message that you are trying to support them. It will be a relief for them to reveal what is bottling up inside. Communication is key, but with regards to the college nitty-gritty, we recommend compiling all of your questions and talking at a pre-planned time once per week to get updates. It is a good way to preserve family relationships!
A few more stress-reducing tips for students:
• Put a stake in the ground: Analysis-paralysis is stressful: thinking and talking too much prevents taking the first step. We tell our students - just put a stake in the ground - make an outline and start writing. You can go back and edit, but it is a major relief when you just start.
• Find a stress buster: Take breaks and find an activity that blows off steam! One of our students would play basketball in his yard every night at 10 pm. It would give him the energy and focus to finish his work.
• Celebrate the small victories: There are a lot of college application to-dos. When you get something done, no matter how small - take a break and celebrate!
• Get organized: this means with your space and your time. A clutter free environment increases productivity and decreases stress. Creating a simple to-do list with due dates will help you stay on task, and you will feel good about yourself - it really works!
• Scroll social media with a grain of salt: No one is going to post their worst grades on social media. It is not a holistic picture of anyone. Best advice is to filter your social media accounts to feeds that are positive and real. Take one step forward - unfollow accounts or people who make you feel “not quite good enough”. You control your mindset - not others.
And on a final note, in case you are wondering, here is our advice on how to respond to some of those common college worries:
“I am scared, it is such a big change” Probe more. What part of college is making your student nervous? There is something bigger here - is it leaving home, do they feel like they won’t make friends, is it that they have no idea what they want to study, or is it the expense of college? Honestly, just getting to the bottom of their concern will help lessen the isolation and anxiety.
“I am embarrassed about my SAT scores. If I don’t send my test scores in, the colleges will know they are bad”. Not true - many colleges have been test-optional for many years, such as Wake Forest, Providence College, and Mt Holyoke. There is historical data that shows that standardized tests do not accurately measure intelligence. In addition, tests and test-prep are expensive and are an advantage to wealthy students - colleges know this. When colleges say they are test optional - they really are.
“Nothing has ever happened to me - I have no essay material!”. Absolutely not true! As I mentioned in last month’s essay article, you don’t need to climb Mount Everest to write a good essay. Sometimes the smallest moments lead us to the biggest breakthroughs. How do you uncover these topics: ask lots of questions and dig deeper by asking “why” again and again! Email us for a FREE essay resource.
As always, good luck, do your best, and take a deep breath - all will be OK!
College 101 Admissions Consultants LLC. Website: www.mycollege101.com. Email: [email protected]. Phone: 508-380-3845.
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