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Navigating College Application Stress & Uncertainty about the Future

Written by Grace Huang

To all the high school seniors out there, give yourself a pat on the back. You have made it through three challenging years of high school, as well as the first semester of college applications. Perhaps some of you have finished college applications and are now awaiting more decisions. Perhaps some of you still have more deadlines ahead. Regardless of where you are in this process, you’re doing a great job, and keep at it.

Applying to college can be very stressful. There is a lot of work involved, as well as many deadlines, and the result of the college application season involves the future – where you will likely live and study for the next few years. This whole process entails a lot of uncertainty, as it feels that the future depends on college acceptances, so if you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone!

Asking for Help

There is no shame in asking for help. It is completely normal to ask for help, and in many cases, others appreciate your honesty and trust in them. The first step in getting help is admitting that you need help, so if you feel that you are struggling, do not be afraid to ask for some help.

It may be helpful to talk about your struggles with a friend, parent, family member, guidance counselor, teacher, or anyone you trust.

Stress & Uncertainty

The college application process can involve a lot of comparison, but it’s important not to compare yourself with others. Whether you or a friend receives an acceptance into a university does not determine how accomplished or qualified you or your friend are. There is a form of luck that goes into college admissions, and it is difficult to know exactly why someone may have received a rejection.

All a rejection means in terms of college applications is that you will not be going to that particular place or attending that particular university. It does not mean that you have been denied your dream or that you will not be successful.

As a teacher of mine once said, college is what you make of it.

Taking Care of Yourself

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during this stressful time.

  • Reflect: Check in with yourself, and take some time to understand what you are feeling. You can do this in the form of journaling, talking with a friend, or whatever works for you.

  • Don’t set strict expectations for yourself: Many handle stress differently, and do not let what you may see of someone else determine how you should be handling this difficult time. Let go of such expectations of what you should be doing right now.

  • Accept your feelings, and know when to stop: If you cannot focus, accept how you are feeling, and sometimes that means putting a temporary pause on work to take care of yourself. Accept that, on some days, you can only do so much.

  • Focus on the present: After letting go of what you expect yourself to be doing right now and pausing, take some time to do something that you enjoy. Maybe try something that will give you a small sense of accomplishment, such as organizing your room or painting.


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