By Carter Brady
Senior year brings the convenience of parking on senior island, the luxury of open campus, and the empowering feeling of being the oldest members of the student body, but it also carries the inherent stress of the college admissions process. As much as I would like to offer some simple fix to make college stress vanish, I honestly haven’t been able to find an easy solution to the stressful impact of college applications. It’s a big deal: you are trying to find a place where you can (hopefully) commit to spending the next four years of your life, and the process of researching schools, writing essays, and filling out applications can be overwhelming. The one silver lining of college-related stress lies in the way that it teaches students to healthily deal with the negative emotions they feel. It is crucial that students learn how to actively cope with stress, as the difference between a healthy and unhealthy response to stress can transform the college application process from a calm and collaborative one to a hurtful and competitive nightmare.
It is crucial to remember that you are not the only one feeling anxious, scared, or even discouraged about the college process. How you act and speak about college can strongly affect the experience of others, and it is important that everyone does their part to help each other out. Be supportive of your classmates, and don’t push anyone to be too vocal about their college applications because it is an intimidating process and everyone deserves to reveal as much or little about their own efforts as they want. That said, overly complaining about college or being self-deprecating about it helps no one. For instance, jokingly naming a community college as your safety school after you think you’ve failed a test is both disrespectful to community college students and the institutions themselves. On that note, I would urge everyone never to publicly describe schools as their “safeties” or make a big deal about their odds of getting into a certain school. You never know when your fallback is someone else’s dream school, so referring to it as such could be demoralizing without you even being aware of it.
Instead of falling victim to fear and the desire to seek reassurance by making others as nervous as you, try finding healthier ways to deal with the stress you feel. How exactly that can be done varies from person to person: set aside some time each day to watch an episode of your favorite TV show, or take a 30-minute break from writing your applications to clear your head. Go outside, exercise, or even just read a book or play a video game: getting your mind off of the emotions you feel, even just for a little bit, is vital to being able to return more focused and calm than before. It is completely okay to talk to your friends about college, too; of all people, they will know best how to help calm you down. Just remember that there is a line between asking for help and demanding that others sacrifice their own well-being, and make sure that you don’t drag others down to your stress level to make you feel better about your own college anxiety.
It’s undeniable that college applications are stressful, but it’s how you deal with them that can make the experience beneficial or harmful. It is vital that every single senior does their part to help each other, not drag each other down. If everyone can put their efforts forward to spread positivity and encouragement, not self-deprecation or vanity, the college admissions process will lose much of its power to cause stress, and we can focus on having a blast in our final year of high school.