It’s fall of my Senior year. The pressure is on. As the early action and early decision college application deadlines approach, the stress levels of the senior class are skyrocketing. Adults warned me the college process would be stressful, but I never could have imagined the overwhelming tension in the air. Fortunately, no Senior is alone. Everybody feels some anxiety and some level of unpreparedness. Charting our futures is no simple task. My older siblings have helped me to deal with the emotional toll of applying to college, which allowed me to gain some perspective. I have combined their advice with my own to share.
First, remember mobility. You are never static. Change is key to growth. So, if you are nervous about regretting your choice, keep in mind that there is no rule against change. Transfering schools is much more common than it is made out to be. Sure, a transfer is not a super simple process. But it allows you to change your mind, which is totally okay! Find yourself unhappy or uncomfortable in the school you chose? You can leave, and you can celebrate the decision as a learning experience. Every mistake is a chance to learn more about yourself, where you are comfortable, and what you are looking for in life. No one decision is binding for life.
Second, view yourself as a puzzle. In the application process, you are combining different aspects of your life – activities, test scores, essays, interviews – into one ensemble that showcases who you are. Be true to yourself, so that the pieces fit together in a way that accurately represents you. A college admissions panel will recognize when something doesn’t fit right. For example, maybe you quit your favorite extracurricular activity this year and replaced it with an activity that you think will help you get into college, but that you don’t feel passionate about. This lack of consistency is going to show, and this piece won’t fit into the big picture of your life. Be true to yourself and be consistent to create the best puzzle.
Third, listen to your heart. This is cheesy, but it’s true. During the application process, you have a million people telling you where to go, what to do, and who to be. But in the end, YOU are the one that knows yourself best. Let parents, advisors, teachers, and peers be a positive influence on your actions, but hold your personal gut instinct as the superior influence. Don’t confuse the ideas of others with the dreams of your heart. Passion is a strong force, and will help you to chart the future. Passion comes from within, not outside.
Alongside listening to your heart, be confident in your values. For example, if you value spending time outdoors, then allow weather to be a key factor in your college search. It may not be as important to others, but if it’s important to you, it matters! Put yourself in an environment in which you can be the best version of yourself; position yourself for success.
Lastly, don’t take it personally. The competitive environment of applying is toxic. And, in many ways, admissions is a game of luck. The number of qualified people that apply to each school is far greater than the number that can be admitted. Thus, thousands of perfectly component candidates are rejected from schools each year. You can’t take it personally or let it affect your self esteem. The only thing in your control is the ability to put the best version of yourself on the line. Then, you wait. Wherever you end up, you will be presented with opportunities to succeed, you will meet amazing new people, and you will grow.