How to Apply to College Without Feeling Overwhelmed

November 13, 2020 • Zachary Amos


Getting into college is a goal that may have shaped the last several years of your life — and may have influenced all your high school efforts. Now that you’re submitting applications for universities, there’s no point in getting overly stressed. Here’s how to apply to college while keeping a cool head. 

Track Your Progress With a Spreadsheet

Staying organized will let you breathe easier as you prioritize colleges. Create a spreadsheet that lists all the universities that caught your attention and any actions you took regarding them.

For example, indicate whether you applied and whether the application is for the regular deadline or an early decision. Note when you schedule tours or chat with admissions staff members, too. 

Having an ongoing record makes it easier to see where to focus your attention and notice when deadlines are coming up faster than expected. 

Confirm What the Schools Require

Many colleges — including Ivy League universities — decided they will not require SAT scores for people applying for the 2020/2021 years. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that many students could not go to exam centers for the test. However, if you did take it, most colleges give you the option of having your scores considered. 

Outside of standardized tests, educational institutions usually require submissions like personal statements or letters of recommendation. Those are crucial things you don’t want to leave until the last minute. 

Go directly to the websites of the universities in question before starting to apply. Verify their minimum admission requirements and iron out a plan for meeting them while avoiding getting caught in a time crunch. 

Let Experts Advise You on How to Apply for College

Colleges have admissions specialists that can answer your questions and clarify any uncertainties that arise before you submit your application. Sending an email or making a phone call are some of the most common ways to get in touch.

You may be surprised at some of the newer options, however. Many colleges have doubled down on virtual options like Zoom chats, remote tours and chatbots. 

Those resources are there for you to use. If questions remain once you’ve made an honest effort to figure things out, experts can point you in the right direction. 

Understand What’s Within Your Control

The college admissions process can make you feel helpless due to its hectic pace and associated pressures. The key to avoiding that outcome is to recognize what’s within your control. 

For example, you can decide not to engage in the endless chatter from your classmates about school rankings, test scores, honors courses and everything else that captures people’s attention as they navigate how to apply to college and get the results they want. 

Plan open and honest conversations with family members to determine if their expectations for a college experience differ from yours, too. Have a receptive attitude to their feedback, but don’t shape your actions primarily to make someone else happy. You can’t control their desires, but you can shift your responses to them. 

Set Aside Time to Do Other Things

It’s easy to understand if it seems like your entire existence gets consumed with details about how to apply to college and what your life will look like once you get accepted into one of the institutions. However, it’s crucial to give yourself occasional breaks to get involved in activities not related to your college search, even for short periods. 

Go for a run, play with a pet, read a book for pleasure or watch an episode of your favorite show. Those things can serve as healthy ways to create distance between your college quest and the rest of life. 

You might feel guilty for giving yourself that time, but doing it should pay off. The idea is that you’re taking a break to avoid getting burned out. That bit of free time could make you feel more clear-headed when you return to putting the finishing touches on an admissions essay or rechecking your paperwork to make sure you haven’t left anything out. 

Maintain a Balanced Perspective

Many people unconsciously attach their self-worth to the colleges of their dreams. They then take the results personally if they receive rejection letters from those institutions.

It’s normal if you want to take a few days to feel sad about such outcomes. However, you should also strive to see the situation without getting fixated on that one event. 

Your college experience is a big part of life, but if the application phase doesn’t end up as you’d hoped, it’s not the end of the world. Have a gameplan to use if you don’t get into your top-choice school. You may discover that you like another place even more than where you wanted to go at first.

You’re Stronger Than You Think

Having a manageable amount of stress can be a positive thing because it helps you stay motivated. However, you don’t want anxiety to get out of control and send you into a downward spiral. 

Your inner strength and resilience may surprise you. Plus, these tips will help you learn how to apply to college while feeling more confident.