There are a million tabs open, all waiting for your input. Dotted Excel sheets reminding you of deadlines and Google Docs with only the copy-paste prompt staring at you. And, wait, the FAFSA form that was released two weeks ago!
Yes, I know exactly how you feel. I was in your shoes less than 10 months ago, and even before that, I remember the visceral seething in my gut when someone even remotely mentioned college. Three years of high school accumulated so far. But I don’t think it should be stressful. In retrospect, the psychological stress made those grueling months of the past year even worse, but I also managed to alleviate that stress with a few tips I’ll share below.
I’m sure it’s not the most exciting thing you’ve been waiting to hear, but we know that, don’t we? The college admissions process is a complex multi-step process. You will have a lot to do, so in order not to feel overwhelmed by deadlines and workload, it can help to do it in small chunks every day. I strongly advise against last-minute adrenaline rushes as it only heightens your stress level, and I think that’s generally a bad habit to have, especially since you’re most likely aware of all deadlines as soon as applications are posted, so there is a great opportunity to schedule your tasks around those deadlines.
Ask others early
It is imperative that you give your recommenders and advisors enough time to put together their letters of recommendation or other application materials. Not only will this save them the hassle of filling out a letter of recommendation, for example, but it will also give your teachers more time to be more thoughtful in their responses. This is something I’m glad I did, especially after seeing so many of my stressed peers two weeks before the early decision deadline, waiting for Common App to say “received”. You should also contact a mentor or college access programs if you have a specific request for financial aid. However, you want to make sure you don’t do this at the last minute and try to schedule a few meetings. Here I would like to recommend College Essay Guy’s free program (a wonderful resource!), The Matchlighters Program. Check it out if you’re interested!
Don’t feel alone in this case
Joint struggle is the best way to capture my graduating class during these precarious months. There was a strange sense of camaraderie between us, stemming from the fact that we all went through the same process of assembling documents, filling out applications, writing essays, and anxiously waiting for results. It has become a wonderful conversation starter among seniors. It was also normal to share the process, the difficulties, because I was certainly not the only person struggling or stressing. Remember that many people are in your place, and you can even use this opportunity to connect with others, share and help each other.
Rest. You need it.
Although the adrenaline-charged nights sometimes made me feel invincible, it was, for the most part, grueling. I was constantly tired in class due to my lack of sleep. Look, you need enough sleep. You need to rest. You can’t “thrive” perpetually on three-hour sleep schedules. If you are applying to a lot of colleges, you might feel like every moment of your spare time should be used to write those essays. I understand the sense of urgency you feel, but giving yourself space to rest, relax will definitely make the whole process more enjoyable.
Even after you’re done, perfectionist tendencies may lurk behind your mind, asking winning questions. As you write your essays, you may feel like you’ll never see the light, but you will. Even if the task seems daunting, it is not impossible. Classes of elders survived. It’s a rite of passage that won’t define you. You have this.