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How to Not Lose Yourself in the Stressful College Application Process

Student Life

June 01, 2023

The college application process is what most high school students will all have to go through, whether awaiting for them be success or failure. Even though everyone has their own pace and beginning points, I believe there is one thing we can all agree on: The college application process is indeed, stressful. This is a guide to hopefully help you alleviate the pressure and keep yourself strong until the end of the process.

1. You Are Not Alone In This Process

Everyone certainly has their own cases, but you are never alone, because no matter what your problem is, it is likely that someone before you has gone through it. Therefore, remember to ask for help and advice on as many things as possible. It cannot hurt!

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Contact Your High School Alumni

Since they were from the same high school as you, it is easier for you to get help from them, because many of them care. More importantly, even though coming from the same high schools does not necessarily make your and their backgrounds similar, there must be some similarities between your and their circumstances when applying for college. Their experience is very useful because they might be able to warn you of mistakes or show you better ways to find something that they themselves did not know before.

Asking for advice relating to extracurricular activities from alumni that also took part in those is extremely beneficial because things like clubs and school events tend to have a tradition and specific rules, and the more you understand them, the better chances you have to be in them (or even lead them).

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Join online student communities and virtual conferences held by universities

There are many online conferences held by universities where they answer all your questions. As you enter your junior year, you will find a lot of invitations to these being a large portion of your emails. There are other ways also, like going to universities’ websites and subscribing to their newsletter or simply searching for online conferences by universities.

They all work! The answers you receive from these conferences may save you a lot of time researching and since they come from school representatives, they should be reliable or accurate to a certain level).

Online student communities can be on different social media platforms. From my experience, many are Facebook groups or discord rooms, but they often come with students that have something in common, like those in the same region or applying for the same schools/programs. These communities do not guarantee certified answers all the time, but you will receive a lot of peer support and experience, which can never be too much.

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2. Expect the best and the worst case. Normalize failure!

The best case is great and the worst case is not the end of the world.

The components of a college application are generally the same: student profile (in terms of academics, backgrounds, extracurricular…), essays and financial needs. However, one cannot be 100% sure of their results until they officially receive the school’s decision. Therefore, it is better that you expect the best and worst scenario during the application process.

You should learn to balance between hope and acceptance, which can considerably reduce the pressure you put on the results, because hey, a yes or no from a school cannot define who you are. It is important to take the process seriously, but too much stress can backfire and make you think about the results more than what you have to do to get to the results.

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Fact: More people get rejected than admitted to prestigious schools. Don’t forget that!

A question many would ask themselves is: “What am I even doing this for, if in the end I don’t get into this school?“ There could be a point where you question the process and if it is worthwhile. To answer this question, first, failure should be normalized in everyone’s (and your) mindset. Realize that the application process is not merely an attempt to get into a school, it is also to help you reflect on your high school journey and maybe discover new passions.

On social media, most people post about their acceptance to prestigious schools, making us temporarily forget that, in reality, most students applying to that school get rejected. Therefore, normalizing the possibility of failure in this process doesn’t mean you should try less, but makes sure you understand that it would not be your fault if something goes wrong.

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3. Have faith in yourself

Last but not least, I wish you the best in your college application journey and hope that you have faith in yourself. Sometimes one doesn’t realize how much better they look once they start becoming more confident — it shows (even in your essay)!

Since this article has been realistic enough, I would like to remind you that dreams do come true every day, and if you work hard enough, yours might be the next to become reality.

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Linh Vuong
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Linh is a Vietnamese high school student, currently living and studying in the U.S. She has been passionate about writing for a long time and hopes her writings could, in a way, light up your today and tomorrow.