Life lesson number one: Never get too excited about any one particular thing that is not a definite. Spending seven weeks at Harvard, I was in love by the time college applications came around. I refused to think about being rejected or how I would react if I was not accepted through early action; however, that moment came and I surely did learn my lesson. I found out December 7th, 8 days earlier than expected, that I had been deferred to the regular decision. I know it is not a rejection, but it still is not promising. My first instinct was to cry, and I did, but the next day I assured myself that if they had no interest in me, why should I have any interest in them? I got over it quickly and saw that some things happen for a reason, which I know this did. It was difficult, and getting so caught up in one school gave me a lot of anxiety- there was a lot riding on one decision. I am sure it doesn’t have to be said, but I did learn my lesson, though it was the hard way. I now have a much more open mind about what may happen and where I may end up, but it doesn’t mean I do not have my favorite schools- because, be assured, I still do.
You do a ton of work applying to college: prepping for the SAT, gathering all of your application materials and writing the perfect college admissions essay. It’s only natural for you to be anxious to hear back as soon as you send it all in, right? Knowing that you won’t be getting that coveted college decision letter until March or April, it’s also pretty natural for you to be going a little crazy waiting for it, too. So how do you keep from completely losing your mind?
I talked to collegiates who were in your shoes just a few years ago and got the scoop on how to keep sane during this stressful time.
1. Decide whether or not you want to talk about it.
Everybody handles the stress of anticipation differently; some people like to talk through the stress, and some people like to distract themselves and focus on something else. A very important step in waiting on college decision letters is to figure out how you deal with stress.
A lot of other collegiates prefer to distract them from thinking about college too much.
I would prefer to talk things out when you’re waiting on these decision letters, and that’s okay! Just remember that many other pre-collegiates would rather not discuss it. Try seeking out other students who want to talk about it all or chatting with your parents and family members. That way, you can still discuss your options as you await the decisions, but you don’t bother others who might not want to do that.
You can figure out who is and isn’t willing to chat about it by delicately beating around the bush about the waiting period. Try saying things like, “Oh man, sent in my last application yesterday… Getting pretty nervous,” or “April can’t come fast enough.”
If the person you’re talking to seems to perk up or seems receptive to these comments, you can start to push more about talking about college decisions. If he or she seems more disinterested by giving you a vague answer or saying something like, “Well we won’t know for a while, so it’s best to be patient,” you should probably leave the subject alone.
2. Remind your friends and family if you don’t want to talk about it.
Like I said, many pre-collegiates want to distract themselves from overthinking the situation. But just because you know you don’t want to talk about it doesn’t mean your family does.
Having family members constantly asking you about college decisions is especially stressful because you only want to give them the good news, but until March or April, you won’t have any news to give. Keep their questions at bay by telling them that they’ll be the first people you tell when you find out.
Address this with your family and friends as soon as possible. As soon as all of your applications are sent in, sit down with your family and let them know that you’re nervous about the decisions, and talking about them during the waiting period makes it worse for you. Tell them that you know that this is also an exciting time for them, but ultimately, this is about your future, and you need to handle it in a way that works best for you.
If your loved ones keep on bringing it up afterward, try to be patient and remind them that you understand that they are only trying to help, but you really need some space from that conversation topic. Say things like, “I know you’re only trying to help, but constantly talking about getting into college is actually hurting me right now. I think we need to wait until the decision letters actually come before we can have this conversation.” Letting your loved ones know that you understand their intentions while also staying firm with your needs is the best way to get smooth and conflict-free solutions to this problem.
3. Pick up a new hobby.
One of the best ways to distract yourself from overthinking is to dive into a new hobby. Since the hobby would be new, you’d more than likely be super excited about it and have a lot to learn. You simply wouldn’t have the time to overthink your college decision letters. Start a blog. Learn how to sew. Learn how to code. Do something.
By getting really invested in something else, you won’t want to think about college or have the time to. Plus, this could be a great time to uncover a hidden talent or to find a new passion, two things that will really help you pick a major or to get into a certain club or activity once you do get to college.
4. Don’t over-hype a certain school.
One of the hardest parts of this waiting game is making sure you don’t build up your top schools too much. Over-hyping schools means thinking you’ll definitely get accepted, thinking a certain school’s program is the only program suited for you or thinking being accepted into a certain school will make or break your entire life. This is definitely something to avoid doing when waiting on those decision letters.
Over-hyping a school is something that comes when you start to overthink. When you overthink getting into schools, you begin to idealize them and think that they’re the only option for you, and when you do this, you’re setting yourself up for potential disappointment.
5. Channel your energy into extracurriculars or schoolwork.
Keeping busy doesn’t just include after-school sports, either. Really invest yourself in your schoolwork as a way to stay busy. This is a great way to avoid the senior slump and to show colleges who may be checking in on your second-semester grades that you’re really invested in your schoolwork!
6. Practice yoga or meditation.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try to distract yourself, you just can’t. Whenever the stress really builds up, find a proven stress-relieving outlet like yoga or meditation.
You don’t need to be a yoga master to try yoga or meditation, either. Download the Pocket Yoga app onto your phone to do yoga on the go, or check out the listings on your TV’s on-demand features for a more thorough workout. Try meditating whenever you worry too much about getting accepted into the right program or receiving enough of a scholarship from a certain school.
7. Use the power of positive thinking.
It probably sounds really lame, but positive thinking really does have a lot of power and can make all the difference when college decision letters are getting the best of you and your self-esteem.
Try hanging a poster in your room or locker at school that has your favorite positive-thinking mantra on it — you could even make it the background on your phone so you have it everywhere you go! Allow that mantra to be something you repeat over and over whenever you doubt yourself or whenever you feel like you’re not good enough.
And whenever you stop believing you’re good enough to be accepted into a school, write down a list of five (or more!) things that you know you can contribute to that school. It can be anything: stimulating class participation, being a friendly face for everyone on campus, kicking butt in intramurals or something else. Remember everything you put in your college application to convince the school to accept you and start believing it yourself!