Applying to College Doesn’t Have to be Stressful

Dealing with StressDear stressed out high school seniors (and juniors),

Do not fear! The stress is real now but in a year or two, you will look back and wonder why you stressed so much. I was you two years ago. Cramming for the SAT, ACT, AP, and IB testing that I had coming up. All the while I was frantically searching for my perfect college. In the moment, it is hard to take a step back and put things in perspective that such a short period of time is an all-telling predictor for the rest of your life. I told myself if I didn’t get into Stanford, I might actually be homeless in 4 years. Boy was I wrong. Not only about the severity of importance one school held, but where I thought I would want to go. In total I applied to 23 schools (note: I don’t recommend doing this!)

While I was applying, I didn’t know what to look for. You might be in the same boat. I have some advice:

  • Ask a teacher you are close with if they have any schools in mind that, based on what they know about your learning style and personality, you might fit in at.
  • If you can, visit different campuses.
  • Do not limit yourself to name-brand schools. Most people have only heard of the Ivy League schools, but when it comes down to applying for jobs or an advanced degree, the people who matter will know a good school when they see one, brand name or not.

Perhaps now you have a list of colleges you are interested in. The general rule I was taught was 3 reach schools (ones you might not get in to), 3 target schools (ones you probably will get in to), and 3 safety schools (ones you are almost guaranteed admission). All these are based on test scores and GPA, but just because yours is lower or higher than the average does not guarantee that you will get in or not. Be sure that you do not take your safety schools lightly! Choose ones that you would actually enjoy being at! I have seen many people make the mistake of choosing safety schools at random, not getting into their choice schools, and being left with places they would not be happy at.

Important and often overlooked characteristics to consider about a college:

  • THE WEATHER! (I cannot stand the cold, so California seemed like the best decision for me.)
  • The surrounding area (Is it expensive? Unsafe?)
  • The people who will be your peers, as well as those who will be your upperclassmen – they will be the ones who will make your experience at college. Yes, the classes are important, but I have learned the most from people who I have met from all over the world.
  • The academic climate (is it super competitive? Laid-back? What works best for you?)

Lastly, when decisions come out, it will be a mix of excitement and disappointment. You may get into all of your schools, or you might get rejected by your top choice. Rejection does not demean your worth as a scholar or a person. Do not forget this! It is also not the end of the world. I didn’t get into Stanford, but now I go to Pomona College, and I could not be happier even if I was at Stanford. I have met many people and made lasting friendships, and I have grown to love being surrounded by intelligent, motivated, and kind people. Take things a day at a time and know that this admission process does not determine your value.

A very happy college student