Surviving the college application can test the patience and self-interests and emotional stamina and gumption and understanding and willingness of parents, as much as the Senior. Sometimes, of everyone in the family all at once. As a result, parents may find themselves thinking up choice names for Senior teachers over the past month and into December, as both the parent and students may perceive teachers to be seemingly oblivious to the obvious stress that Seniors are enduring, assigning homework and projects and tests and finals and research papers and solving global warming all due the same day as a major college application deadlines. On the other hand, specifically for AP and IB courses, teachers are under the strain of a truncated year, as AP and IB exams are annually given in the first two weeks of May, which for a traditional school year cuts anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 weeks from the time to present an already rigorous curriculum. Thus, in the interests of their students being ready for the exam, teachers may continue assigning work at the “regular” pace, no matter other extenuating circumstances.
Thus, a Catch-22 of college admissions has emerged for Seniors this fall. To remain competitive for admissions, Seniors are taking multiple (3-5) Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and Honors courses, yet because the courses are an accelerated, more detailed survey of an academic topic, the already frenzied pace will begin to feel even more accelerated and pinch more acutely, during the crunch period when college applications are due. So, feeling the effects and unsure of how to best manage, students and parents may, at best, be uncomfortable, and at worst, make rash decisions–such as projecting misplaced angst onto teachers at the time you’re also requesting letters of recommendation. Furthermore, parents and students on the treadmill that is the Senior year may argue at louder decibels than usual and more frequently. Finally, stress can weaken our immune systems, leading to sickness and unwanted suffering, when rest isn’t an option. In the worst case scenario, seeking any solution to the accumulated stress, students and/or their parents may capitulate, resuling in a send-whatever’s-done-already-press-the-submit-button-dang impulsive reaction to completing college applications–and in doing so, risk possible lifelong regret.
An alternative path, during moments of extreme stress, would be to STOP. STEP BACK FROM THE EDGE. Analyze the situation and gain much needed perspective–leading to other less risky options for reducing stress. The pain of completing competitive college applications is temporary, no matter how acutely felt. A missed family dinner or basketball practice, while seemingly overwhelming at the time, may give the student enough space to catch their breath, while validating that college applications are complicated and important–not just another thing to do, while life continues as usual. Also, before acting, thinking (which can include revealing our intended actions to an objective third party for feedback) may help not compound the situation and keep energy focused on being as competitive as possible for the colleges of choice. And, if all else fails, venting can be helpful. I remember in college, every night at 10 pm during Finals Week, we had the Primal Scream. The entire campus would erupt into sound, from the libraries to the residence halls to the parking lots to the chem labs. Then, hoarse, but elated, I could refocus. (However, I’d suggest also using a pillow, unless you have very understanding neighbors or live in the middle of nowhere.)
Photo Credit: Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960), biography.com