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Why Are College Applications Stressful?

“Do you think I can get in?” is a common question Seniors (and their parents) ask us at this time of year.   The idea of competing for admissions, as well as the judging eyes of an unknown admissions officer, can create anxiety for the most qualified applicant.  Often, the highly competitive applicant can be most nervous, as they’re now facing the evaluation of years of effort.  No one wants to be told no–and for many teenage college applicants, a denial can feel like a rejection of one’s being.

The personal nature of college admissions can be simultaneously acknowledged and dismissed by well-meaning parents.   Mom and dad will whisper their concerns to us about their child’s chances for admissions, not wanting their children to witness their doubts.  At the same time, they’ll try and reassure their kids that “everything will be okay in the end.”  While that may be true, no one likes the idea of being judged–especially when there’s not a dialogue.  The only opportunity to tell your side, make your pitch is in the written application.  Once that’s submitted, then there’s no opportunity to answer questions, clarify and be sure the admissions officer knows the facts s/he needs to make the most informed decision possible, in a back and forth conversation.  Additionally, in the end, with college acceptances or denials, there’s no individual explanation either way for the decision made.  The opaqueness of a college admissions decision can leave little room for understanding, which logically can also feed nervousness.

Use any nervousness to fuel research of the college.  Know all possible information about the colleges selected for application can help reassure an applicant of her/his match with the school, building confidence that will naturally emerge in the essays and application.  Complete admissions interviews where possible–asking questions of the admissions officer, establishing one’s “fit” with the university values.  If an applicant does everything possible in applying to the college, then no matter the outcome, s/he can be confident the decision made was meant to be.