Application Anxiety

How the college process affects seniors' lives

University Prep’s seniors are overwhelmed and stressed with juggling their lives and college applications.

University Prep’s seniors are overwhelmed and stressed with juggling their lives and college applications.

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Between solving calculus problems, penning essays for English classes and playing sports, seniors find themselves facing an additional burden: college applications. Seniors experience especially immense stress during December, when many colleges release their decisons.

For many seniors, this balance can be hard to manage while still finding time to take care of their mental and emotional health.

“I think it can be really like anxiety provoking to think about, [the idea that] I don’t know where I’m going to be in a year, and I might be at a place I don’t want to end up,” senior Paige Welikson said. 

Associate Director of College Counseling Britten Nelson finds that students tend to have a hard time managing the uncertainty with college applications.

“You submit your application and then you have to wait months to find out any news and that, that is really anxiety provoking,” Nelson said.

Counselor Lindsay Metcalfe agrees that feeling less in control over the college process can be hard for students to deal with.

“You do the best you can with your applications, and then it is in someone else’s hands,” Metcalfe said. “You are kind of like offering up the total of your accomplishments and allowing faceless admissions offices to judge it. I think that that’s a really uncomfortable process for people.”

Stress in the college process, isn’t always a bad thing. Nelson thinks that the pressure can motivate students to work harder.

“I think sometimes stress is a good thing. The adrenaline kicking in sometimes produces some really great work,” Nelson said.

While stress can be a motivating factor for students working on college applications, at a certain point, it becomes more harmful to students than it is helpful.

“When good stress crosses over into problematic stress, people start to feel stuck,” Metcalfe said. “If it’s motivating, if it’s pushing you to keep going, that’s good. If it’s starting to interfere with your school work or your relationships or your overall enjoyment of life then that’s different.”

Metcalfe thinks that, for many students, the first semester of senior year is when stress can rise to unhealthy levels.

“You can build up your capacity to work harder and harder physically. But you also need time to rest and recover,” Metcalfe said. “I think sometimes fall of senior year is like sprinting for three months with no break.”

Senior Ella Durbin, a leader of University Prep’s Mental Health Advisory Board, hopes students feeling stressed about college applications remember to ask for support when they need it.

“The stress right now is temporary, so that’s something to keep in mind, and wherever you end up going will be the right fit for you,” Durbin said. “Talk to your parents or just let people around you know how you feel so they know how they can best support you.”

For Welikson, trying to have a positive outlook has helped her manage stress related to college applications.

“Just stay in the present and enjoy as much as you can,” Welikson said. “Deal with situations as they come as opposed to letting them engulf your life.”