Worried about the college application process? Stressed out about getting in? Freaked out about the costs? Whether you’re a high school junior who is choosing to take your SATs or ACTs or a high school senior who has committed to your dream school, here are 7 things you can do to reduce the stress and learn to love this experience.
1. WANT something
Focus on what YOU want. Please do not focus on being wanted. What you want is never wrong (as long as it’s legal). Are you academically driven? Want a social life? Want to root for a team in a 50,000-seat stadium? Not sure what you want? Let your past positive experiences inside and outside the classroom guide you. Scared of getting it wrong? There is no WRONG answer. Just want something.
2. REPEAT: I am the maker of my dreams
You are 51% or more of your future success. A school is not what guarantees your success. An admissions counselor doesn’t determine your value or self-worth. You are the creator of your future. A school is just a place where you can do the things you want to do and surround yourself with people who can help you to do these things. Find a campus that has the resources you want. Identify as many as 5 dream schools. Make sure you will definitely get into at least one of these dream schools. This way, you will make sure your dreams come true.
3. Get Help (even if you don’t need it)
I know you are more than capable of finding answers on your own. But get help anyway. Reach out to people who volunteer to help, people you pay to help, and people you enlist to help. Ask people questions even if you think the answer is obvious. Let them help you. Use these questions to build relationships with people who can be in your corner throughout this process. You will discover information you never expected to learn. Forget Google, Alexa, or Siri, talk to the amazing student ambassadors, advisors, counselors, volunteers, experts, and any students you meet while walking around campus.
4. Pretend you’re buying a new phone (or something you want)
When you buy a new phone you have no problem asking people about their experiences? You can discuss what they liked and didn’t like? Right? If you were buying a car, you would do the research and ask questions. Forget worrying about being annoying. College is the equivalent value of buying hundreds of phones or multiple cars. Find the pleasure in this experience. Once you can identify what you want and visualize it, you can have fun shopping for it.
5. REPEAT: The best school is NOT always the best school for me
That school your best friend is looking at might be ranked higher, but it might be the wrong school for you. The BEST school will have places where you can do the things YOU love to do. The BEST school will have people YOU want to meet and get to know. The more you know what you want, the easier it will be to determine the very best school for YOU. You might discover a big state school with a small honors program and a big financial aid package is the best school for you.
6. Talk to the people who found the money
You want money to help pay for school? Talk to the students who found the money. Talk to financial aid advisors who have access to the money. Find seniors attending the schools you want to attend. Ask the financial aid office for contacts or find grads from your high school. Ask them how they paid for college. Ask them about tricks, scholarships, and inside info. Whether it’s attending summer school at your local community college to graduate early, working as a residence assistant to pay for room and board, or taking advantage of merit aid (money that isn’t need-based) – talk to the people who can show you the money.
7. Why do you want to go to college?
Why do YOU want to go? Not why do your parents want you to go or why do you want your child to go. Why do YOU want to go to college? If you don’t know what you want in terms of a career, define what life experiences you want. If you still don’t have an answer, consider hitting the pause button. There are amazing GAP year programs and other options. You can go to a community college, take prerequisites, work in a job related to your interest or passion. You can create your own internship program that helps you save money, accumulate college credits and build relationships with mentors. Once you know what you want and why you want it, you can release the stress and have a great time exploring colleges and finding it.
BONUS: Still stressed out? Send me your questions via www.HarlanCohen.com and I’ll help you find answers.