Reducing Students’ Anxiety in the College Application Process

As many of us know by now, the college admission process is very stressful for students and families. In fact, this is probably an understatement!

Speaking as a college counselor,  I am very aware of how students are feeling and care about not only the quality of their applications, but also the strength of their spirits. While some students are quite expressive in words about their concerns, I can also tell through students’ behavior that this process is challenging for them on many levels.

This year, I have seen a very high level of anxiety in many of the 12th graders regarding their application process, and I therefore wanted to pass along a few resources that I have found to be helpful as a counselor.

First, I want to share an important article that recently appeared online in the Harvard Business Review titled “How Anxiety Can Lead Your Decisions Astray.” This article highlights some key points regarding how anxiety can impact the quality of a person’s decision making process. On several occasions this fall, I have witnessed students make decisions that they probably would not have made if they were simply feeling a little more relaxed and at ease. As a parent, if you have a gut sense that your child is leaning in the wrong direction on an issue, you are probably right. Although it may not be easy, working with your child to understand the logic behind the advice that s/he may hear in a high school guidance office, independent college counseling office, and/or in your home will be worthwhile in the end. Trust me, it may take a few months, but your children will thank you. There have been plenty of moments in recent weeks when I have felt that students have questioned or resisted my advice because it may mean that they have to work a little harder or open their minds to possibilities they never considered. I don’t always get instant cooperation from students, but that alone does not mean the conversations should stop.

The second resource I wanted to share is the Fall 2013 Journal of College Admission from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which includes several articles highlighting how to help students reduce their anxiety during the college admission process. You can order the journal or individual articles by visiting this website.

Although the college application process always adds an element of stress to families’ lives, this year it appears to be affecting students and parents more intensely. While the challenges with the Common Application have certainly not helped, they are hopefully now behind us. As I follow the daily updates for the Common Application, it appears that the difficulties we experienced in August-October are finally being resolved.

I hope that these resources are useful. Please don’t hesitate to contact Popp & Associates if you have any questions or would like to share other valuable tips regarding reducing students’ anxiety during the college admission process. I have every confidence that with careful planning, students will have favorable outcomes, even if it may not feel that way during every moment of the application process.

 

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