Here’s how to stress less about college applications

Applying to college—whether you’re a parent or student, it can be hugely stressful. Information overload, looming deadlines, and attempts to submit the perfect application can weigh you down, creating a pressure-cooker of anxiety. Fortunately, there are some ways your family can work together to keep your cool and avoid burnout during this hectic season. We’ll explore a few of them in this blog post.

For students


1. Start early and prioritize your time

It’s a good idea to start thinking about college applications well before you reach your senior year, but if you’re already there, take a deep breath and set small, actionable goals that can be completed from week to week. Give yourself deadlines for getting each college application and admissions essay done, and schedule time to work on them every day (you might even want to consider doing these before school starts to keep from overloading yourself). Stick to your schedule to prevent everything from piling up at the last minute, and you’ll avoid unnecessary stress.

2. Pay attention to deadlines

Standardized tests, applications, financial aid forms, and more have strict deadlines you’ll have to abide by if you want a shot at getting accepted by your schools of choice. When you set your schedule and application goals, keep these deadlines in mind and plan your process accordingly. The last thing you want to do is miss out on applying to your dream school because the deadline passed you by.

3. Apply to a variety of colleges

If you have one ideal “dream college” in mind, great—but expand your options to include other great schools, too. No one wants to be rejected by their top choice, but the reality is that rejection is a possibility, so it’s best to do your research and choose several other colleges that appeal to you. Choose some “safety,” “target,” and “reach” schools for the best mix of possibilities.

4. Don’t compare yourself to your peers

One of the hardest things about college application season is wondering how you stack up against your friends and peers. It might be tempting to discuss your college applications with your friends, but if you want to cut down on stress, it’s probably best to avoid it. Don’t make the mistake of second-guessing your choices and competing with your peers; just focus on the task at hand and get those applications out the door.

For parents


1. Don’t pressure your student for perfection

These days, parents agonize more than ever over whether their students will get accepted to the most prestigious schools. They not only drive their students to overachieve by overloading themselves with extracurricular activities and advanced classes; they also push their students into the mindset that the best opportunities for their future only come through illustrious, well-known institutions. Take a step back and a deep breath—your student’s future is bright, with or without an Ivy League admission. Instead, help your student embrace the idea of applying to multiple colleges, and take rejections in stride. Before long, this season will be a distant memory.

2. Let your student lead the application process

Your student should not depend on you to write his or her admissions essays or take control of the application process. While it’s important to be a cheerleader and source of support and assistance, this is about your student’s future—so encourage him or her to hold the reins and take responsibility for next steps. Taking ownership of the admissions process will empower your student as he or she makes the transition out of high school and into the adult world. And, it will take a load off your shoulders to see that your student is fully capable of driving the process.

3. Deal with the financial details

Your student isn’t likely to have dealt with the family finances, so it’s important for you take a lead role in researching tuition, filling out financial aid forms, and getting a handle on what the costs will look like for each of your student’s college choices. Keep the stress of college applications as low as possible by gathering as many details about finances and costs as possible. While it may be necessary to discuss a doable range of costs with your student while he or she builds a list of colleges, don’t burden him or her with unnecessary details.

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4. Don’t go it alone

If you get stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help—or even to hire an independent guidance counselor who can walk you and your student through the application process. You can also gather helpful information from the schools themselves, at events like open houses and college fairs. Other parents with college students can be a great source of information and direction, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you have questions.

The bottom line

When it comes to college applications, there seems to be an endless stream of details to manage. Make deadlines and achieve your goals by taking one day at a time and keeping the big picture in mind.


Haley Walden is a freelance copywriter/editor who collaborates with creative entrepreneurs, authors, and agencies to strengthen and clarify their brand stories through engaging website copy, blog posts, marketing copy, and more. She is a geek at heart with a love for books, music, movies, theatre, and all things Star Wars. Haley lives in northwest Alabama with her husband and two children and is currently drafting her first epic fantasy novel. Connect with her at haleywalden.ninja.

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