Contrary to popular belief, constant stress is not a required part of the college admissions process. In fact, it’s quite possible to get into college without it. It may take a little extra effort, but most people will agree it’s worth it – especially when it means you will likely have more time to enjoy your senior year.
- Be Organized. There are lots of resources that will give you a time line so you can know what is ahead of you in the application process. You can also check with your school and local library for free or low cost college planning presentations. Using these resources, you can come up with your own plan that will help you get into college with the least stress possible.
- Stay ahead of the game. Waiting till the last minute is the biggest stress-producer there is. If you begin your college search in the Spring of your junior year, you will have a tentative list to work from during the summer. Make sure you’ve also taken the SAT and/or ACT by the end of your junior year. (If the schools you are considering require SAT Subject tests, be sure to take those, too.) That way you will have time to do test prep before you repeat the test(s) in the Fall. Set your own deadlines well ahead of what the colleges demand and stick to those deadlines. Better to be finished early than to be derailed by an unforeseen event at the last minute. (i.e. a computer crash or prolonged power outage)
- Be realistic. As you decide which colleges to include on your list, consider your chances for admission there. Applying to a couple of dream schools is fine, but your list should focus more on the schools where you have a decent chance of being admitted. Keep in mind that each application is going to take time to complete well – possibly way more time than you expect. You don’t need to have a huge list of schools in order to get into college as long as you do your research well and choose those schools carefully.
- Use the summer wisely. While it’s important to get some “down time” during the summer, the most stress-free students devote part of their summer to working on at least one college application essay. For some schools, it’s even possible to start working on their applications. It’s also a great time to sharpen your test-taking skills by taking a class or using a practice book.
- Ask for help. One of the best ways to avoid unnecessary stress is to seek out your school counselor or an independent counselor with any questions you may have. They can give you the answers you need as well as provide you with additional information that may help you get into college.