Taking Baby Steps to Ease College Application StressI vividly recall a moment of panic after a nurse entered my hospital room to discuss the details of my release after my first child was born. Holy cow, don’t they know I don’t really know what I’m doing? I’m not ready for this.
Within seconds I recovered my cool, realizing the hospital had done its job and was now declaring me fit to go home with my newborn daughter. After all, shouldn’t I have been expecting this moment after eight month’s of prenatal care and three days in the hospital? This doesn’t even take into account the hours my husband and I had spent at LaMaze classes or the months we had spent picking out names and decorating the nursery. Why had this moment unnerved me?
Perhaps a better question is “Why am I discussing the birth of my daughter, who is now three months shy of 22?” If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you would know the answer: Because it reminds me of college application essays.
High school students in Montgomery County, as in most other school districts, have been prepped for college readiness for years. However, many of them are just realizing the reality of their situation: It’s time to engage upon a new journey.
Every year at this time, I see students begin to panic. There’s no stopping time, and the early admission/decision deadline, which usually falls on Nov.1, is in clear sight. Applying to colleges becomes a fearful reality for high school seniors, much as caring for a newborn had been for me. Furthermore, as the early deadline increasingly becomes the norm, as it tends to offer the best chance for acceptances, the regular end-of-the-year deadline becomes the late one. For students applying to the University of Maryland in College Park, the early deadline is mandatory for consideration in the honors or scholars program. So as the days of October quickly pass and shorten as the winter nears, the stress builds.
When I help students with their application essays, parents frequently tell me I help reduce their stress by eliminating some of the “nag factor” of getting their children on task. It’s a nice compliment, but I’m more concerned about easing student stress.
Don’t get me wrong; I work them hard. I’m not in the business of writing essays for them. However, I can get to know them a bit and make sure their essays portray their individuality, which is what admissions officers want. Together the students and I tweak their work. When I tell them how I perceive them through their essays, I am making sure my assessment is both accurate and is what the student wants to convey. I never let the student finish until we both agree it’s done. This ensures that they’re happy with my guidance, and that I’m happy with their work. No one settles. They become more confident with their applications.
Although eliminating all of the stress of applying to college is impossible, with the right attitude, students can learn to at least somewhat enjoy the process. For instance, I tell them to choose an essay topic they’ll like writing about. Ones that are more enjoyable to write often become more enjoyable to read. I also advise them to consider their work as a time capsule depicting who they now; then, in ten or twenty years, they can review their essays to see how much they will have grown or will have remained steadfast.
Often times, stress is a mindset that students can alleviate with the right outlook and a timely schedule. After all, they’re not being asked to care for a helpless infant or anything!