Lessen the Stress of the College Admissions Process

by Carol Chandler-Wood

The college application and admissions process can often be an overwhelming and stressful experience.  Application deadlines, unexpected requirements, and last minute decisions can cause students and parents to have high levels of anxiety. With proper planning and an effective strategy, the college admissions process requires a lot of work; however, it does not have to be so stressful.

A major strategy to keep stress levels controlled is to begin the college admissions process early, ideally no later than the fall of a student’s junior year.  Discussing together the cost of the various colleges the student is interested in applying to and the family budget will help to reduce stress.  If an expensive school is not affordable for your family, talk with your student about other possible colleges to consider.  There are many affordable and excellent colleges in the state of Georgia to explore. It is also prudent to look for a scholarship, major grant, or a student loan.  Discuss in advance who will pay a loan back after earning a degree.  It will not harm students to help pay college loans back upon graduation.  In fact, it teaches them to be responsible if they are required to pay at least part of a college loan because they have invested into their own college experience and academic success.  Deciding on financial issues in advance helps to guide students and parents to intelligent and informed college decisions and will reduce stress.

Another important and helpful way to reduce the stress of the college admissions process is to select and reference several college guidebooks which rate schools and describe various degree programs, acceptance standards and procedures, campus life, and other important details.  College Board’s Index and Majors and College Handbook are two such valuable resources. Websites such as that of American College Testing and College Board also provide valuable facts and insights.  A student’s high school Career and College Counselor can be a great source of information, too!    It is extremely helpful to use Index of Majors to cross reference the degree programs in which a student is most interested and the colleges most respected in those particular areas to shorten the list of colleges to consider.  By narrowing down the list of possible colleges to consider, the task of deciding which colleges to apply to will be much less overwhelming and stressful.  Next, encourage your student to compare his or her own goals, interests, likes and dislikes against the information gathered about various schools as doing this will further reduce the list of possible college choices down to a manageable number.

Another stress reducer is to create a simple college application “things-to-do” list and deadlines calendar. For each college being considered, work backwards from their application deadlines and list all of the due dates for ACT and SAT scores, recommendation letters, high school transcripts, and other important information.  Include time-lines for tasks that will require more effort and energy, such as writing a college application essay.  Also, be sure to follow-up with the colleges the student applied to and make certain all required information was received.

Reducing anxiety in the college admissions process is about getting rid of the many unknown elements.  Once a student has learned a sufficient amount of information about the colleges he or she is interested in applying to so that they can make an intelligent and informed choice, the process will become organized and controlled, thus causing stress levels to decline naturally.

If you would like to receive a college planning calendar which details of what to do each year of your student’s high school career, CLICK HERE.