Stay Confident, Avoid Distraction, and Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Ah, the sound of silence. The unnatural quiet of senior year when, come fall, the college application process kicks into full gear. You and your friends stop talking about college plans and begin creating and submitting applications. The public discussion of college lists and top choices have now turned private, and most students hold their cards very close to their chests.

Junior year was filled with shared experiences: college fairs, school events or evenings for college planning, and discussions of family trips to visit campuses. Senior year, however, is much different. The first days of school will bring much chatter about recent summer activities, but the dialogue surrounding college lists and application strategies are not open for discussion. As students refine and balance lists and write their college essays, the need to share becomes less important.

There definitely is both a public and private nature to the college search process, and you are now entering the “discreet” phase. This is the time to focus, attend to your own personal plan, and begin to conquer the work of the main essays, supplemental essays, applications, resumes, and whatever else is on your plate. As you dial down to the nitty-gritty of your application details, switch your approach to privacy mode.

Reducing chatter about college apps will certainly reduce the number of distractions coming your way and may lower your stress considerably. Avoiding questions about your reach and likely schools will allow you to keep your mind on your own strategy and stick to making calm, informed decisions. Check in with those in the know but limit detailed conversations to those directly involved in your plan, such as parents, teachers, or counselors. If you are unsure of specific information related to your college search, go to reliable sources — including college admissions representatives. This will keep you from listening or contributing to any urban myths that may be circling the neighborhood.

Stay calm and in the present. Continue to do your research and take note of the facts. Relate the facts to your own story. When you make the college search totally personal, your school choices will center on your story, your particular best, and a realistic or healthy balance of undergraduate programs that are a good fit for you — and less a reflection of what your friends are doing.

Enjoy the sound of silence. The shift from public discussion to private investigation will reduce stress and allow you to keep a cool head during college app crunch time.