How to Avoid the Stressful Ordeal of Applying to Colleges

By: Dan Lipford | Last Updated: February 6, 2019

If you don’t already appreciate how incredibly stressful applying to colleges can be — and how that stress has serious implications — don’t take our word for it. Here’s a student, Gabriela Nadeau, writing about her feelings in a November 2017 article titled College Applications: I’m Applying to College and I’m Stressed AF [“AF” is a texting acronym for “As F_ _ _”] on (with all of the emphasis via bold font added):

stress - gabriel-matula-300398-unsplashSometimes I get anxiety dreams about college. To my eternal dread, they typically end with me opening that future-determining email only to discover that I was rejected from the college of my dreams, and then I wake up crying, wondering why I even bother trying. This is happening because applying to college is so stressful now, especially for students who want to go to competitive schools. It feels like you have to be the perfect student, with great grades, test scores, and extracurriculars. Not only that, but college acceptance rates have dropped a lot in the past ten years. Columbia’s was 10.8 percent in 2008, and it was 6 percent last year, for example. That might not seem like much, but for students like me, it’s an incredibly distressing statistic. More and more often, it’s hard not to feel like you’re applying just to be rejected. That’s a lot to put on one student, and it takes its toll.

Gabriela is far from alone. A NYU study released in August 2015 states that “School work, college applications, extracurricular activities, and parental expectations all contribute to teenagers’ … high levels of chronic stress,… [and] it impedes their abilities to succeed academically, compromises their mental health functioning, and fosters risk behavior. [It] appears to persist into the college years.”

Tara Parker-Pope, founding editor of Well, The NY Times' award-winning consumer health site, wrote in an April 2008 post:

Students complain about lack of sleep, stomach pain and headaches, but doctors and educators also worry that stress tied to academic achievement can lead to depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems.

A more recent post from Marjorie Hansen Shaevitz, a mental health professional, in post (March 2017) suggests that many parents are also stressed-out:

…what is going on in college admissions today is a challenge, if not downright unhealthy for students and their families….And the rat race is starting earlier and earlier. This year I have more panicked 8th grade parents calling me for help than I have had in all the other years combined.

stressed parent - nik-shuliahin-251237-unsplashParents who have tried to help a child with applications relate horror stories about last minute essays, replete with screaming matches, missed deadlines and frustration over the process’ complexity.

NPR, The Wall Street Journal, … the list goes on of article about this downward spiraling situation.

And applying to colleges isn’t the only stress-inducing part of the process. Deciding which colleges to apply to is often harrowing, aided and abetted by how very complicated the process can be. Let’s look at some figures:

Common_Application_logoThere are around 3,000 four-year, colleges and universities in the United States. The Common Application, which is the most widely accepted college application, is accepted by about 760 of those 3,000 coalition appschools. The Coalition Application, which is the next most widely accepted college application, is accepted by about 140 schools, but around 100 of those schools also accept the Common Application. That means that around 800 schools are covered by the Common and/or Coalition Applications. Add another 50-ish schools that accept the Universal Application, and we’re at 850. That leaves about 2,150 schools that require either their own Universal appapplications or use of state-wide general applications (e.g., University of California and University of Texas systems). How can either students or parents know enough about all of those applications to complete them accurately and in a timely manner?

To compound the problem, the Common and Coalition Applications have their own suites of Personal Statements/Essays, and most all of the schools that accept those applications and essays have their own sets of questions. Lots of them have their own writing supplements. Some schools invite students to upload a resume, provide their own submission deadlines, offer Spring Session admission in addition to Fall Session admission, Early Decision, Early Action, or Early Decision II etc., etc., etc. Few applications are easy for students and parents to complete accurately; help comes neither promptly nor with sufficient clarity.

This is the stuff of madness, and it's both daunting and painful for students and parents.

That brings us to Dr. Pavanaja Reddy of New York, who stressed out when her oldest daughter went through the application process, stating that, “It was a really bad time for both of us.” But when her second daughter went through the process, she said that, “I was having a glass of wine every day. I was totally relaxed. We didn’t fight once.”

The difference: she hired an educational consultant to manage the entire process for her second daughter.

judiAnd there simply is no better, more knowledgeable, or more effective educational consultant than Judi Robinovitz, who’s the CEO of JRA Associates and who’s assisted 95% of her college counseling student clients in gaining admission to one of their top-choice colleges. According to one parent, Wendy Casey,

[Judi] is amazing. She works relentlessly for your family and is so compassionate and knowledgeable. She is simply the best educational consultant you could ever wish to work with, and she will exceed your expectations. Judi is the ultimate professional, experienced, dedicated and caring.

As the author of this blog, I’ve had my articles related to college admissions appear in LINK for Counsels, distributed to over 20,000 school counselor nationwide. I have a granddaughter who’s soon to begin the college admissions project in earnest, and who will be working with Judi; I wouldn’t even consider using anybody else.

For your health and sanity – and for the health and sanity of your children who will begin the process of college applications this coming late spring or early summer — I urge you to visit the Educational Consulting portion of our website or, better yet, call us today to get the process started.

By Dan Lipford, Master Instructor and Applications & Essay Expert

Topics: College Application College Counseling College Planning Anxiety


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