Applying to college is a daunting task, and I am the first to admit that college application season was the most stressful time of my life. In hindsight, I could have saved myself from all of this college application stress – and now, I’m going to save you.
Starting off organized makes the application process SO much easier. Before even starting any applications, I created a spreadsheet with columns for the number of essays, short answer questions and recommendation letters each application needed, and a row for each college in order of how soon the application was due. I printed this spreadsheet up and hung it on the wall right in front of the desk. I can’t even describe the satisfaction of striking through a whole row after submitting! I also wrote due dates in my daily planner to keep them in my mind and in context of other responsibilities.
Be realistic! You have to know your limits. College applications require a lot of work. There can be a lot of pressure to apply to a ton of schools (I’ve known students who applied to over 20!!) You do not have to ascribe to this! Narrow your list as much as you feel comfortable with and be reasonable. An easy way to determine if a school deserves to be on your short list is to picture yourself opening a rejection letter (slash email) from that school in the spring. Are you sad? Do you care? I know this sounds depressing, but I received a couple of rejection/waitlist letters that didn’t make me dejected or disappointed at all. I had somehow convinced myself to apply to those schools and didn’t realize that I never would have gone to them until I was completely apathetic about not having the option! The extra work I did applying to those schools definitely created unnecessary stress that I could have easily avoided, had I prioritized.
These few months will be tough, but you don’t have to go it alone! Seek advice from online resources like this blog, your older friends, family, teachers, college counselors, and even your peers. Have your essays edited by multiple people and choose the alterations from each that you deem valid – this keeps the voice your own while still improving your writing.
A good friend of mine put it this way: applying to college is the equivalent of taking another class. Take this extra stressor and workload into account when planning your semester! Make sure you tailor your class load and extracurricular activities keeping this in mind. Don’t spread yourself too thin!
Create a reward system to give yourself incentive to knock out your applications! (Mine was Chipotle). Additionally, plan something ceremonious for when you finish all of your apps. It can feel wholly underwhelming to finish a huge task to no catharsis or celebration. Make it special! I went out to a big sushi dinner with my family. (Can you tell I love food?)
Follow this guide and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to tackle the college application stress free. Good luck!