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Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the College Application Process

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

I remember the college application process like it was yesterday. From the late nights spent hunched over my desk trying to edit my Personal Statement down to the word count for the Common App to the 30-minute lunch breaks I spent reaching out to old teachers for recommendations, the process felt all-consuming.

However, it is crucial to prioritize your health during this process, both physically and mentally.

Here are some of my favorite ways to take care of your mental health during the hectic college application process.

  • When you’re overwhelmed or scared, write down what’s real and what’s not real: The outcomes of college applications are not the end-all-be-all of your academic/professional careers. There are multiple pathways to success and to your dream career. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take out a sheet of paper and remind yourself of what is true or has already happened, and try to distinguish that from anticipated future outcomes which have not occurred yet. Divide these into two columns, so that you can clearly delineate between the two. Then, you can lean into the positive stress (like planning deadlines and brainstorming essays) and hopefully away from the distress of worrying about the future.

  • Use mindfulness strategies: Although it can feel as though college applications are the only thing worth concentrating on at the moment, there is so much more to your life than the applications. Practice mindfulness in order to center yourself and help center yourself. Try practicing mindful breathing: Inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat four times.

  • When you feel blocked, shake things up: Try writing your applications in different spots like at a coffee shop or your favorite library, in order to change up the location of where you are working. Work on your applications at different times of the day to see if you enjoy working more during the day or at night time. Go on a walk in nature or listen to music during your writing breaks. Check out College Torch’s “Craft Compelling UC Essays” course for even more great resources and techniques for navigating the essay-writing and revision process.

  • Don’t write every day or all in one day: Make sure to take health breaks between you and your essays. If you work on your applications every single day, not only will it be mentally draining, but your sessions will be less productive. On the other hand, avoid writing your essays exclusively on the weekends; if you only write on those days, you will likely forget your most recent ideas and will have to spend valuable time figuring out where you last left off. It is much more worthwhile to dedicate a few days a week (perhaps days when you have less homework) to writing your applications. Also, make sure to write at times when you can commit your full and active attention to the process, so avoid writing very late at night or when you feel drowsy or unfocused.

  • Identify your supports and use them: Your community is your backbone. Make time to talk and vent to people in your life whom you trust. Whether it’s your best friend, parents, or guidance counselor, talking to someone else about the process can take away the feeling of hopelessness or discouragement that college applications can bring. A college counselor is a great resource and support to have during this often stressful time. If you’re interested in chatting with Robert, the college counselor at College Torch, schedule a session with him here

One more seriously effective way to keep your stress down during app season: Make sure you have a balanced college list where you know you're going to get into a great-fit, amazing college no matter what. Download College Torch's completely free College Research Guide so you know exactly where to start your college search:

Aisha Chebbi is a Princeton University student and a tutor at College Torch. Parents, follow College Torch by joining our private Facebook group for Parents of College-Bound Students.

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