Competition During the College Admissions Process
Learn some tips for dealing with pressure and competition during your college planning and application process.
The college admissions process has become increasingly competitive and cutthroat.
The pressure on students to get accepted at elite colleges – some of which admit as little as 10 percent of applicants – has seemingly risen in recent years. Competition among peers has become the norm. Increasingly, students, parents and educators are concerned about the effects of this intense stress.
Ultimately, the most important way to avoid unnecessary pressure is to focus on you
Recently, the documentary film The Race to Nowhere has highlighted how some of the academic pressure in high schools has not necessarily generated more prepared and enlightened high school graduates.
Here are a few tips you can use to handle the pressure – while still holding yourself to high standards and putting your best foot forward for college admissions.
Often, students overload themselves with classes and extracurricular activities in hopes of creating the perfect college resume. Sometimes called “overscheduling”, this phenomenon affects many high school students shooting for college admissions. While each additional activity or class will possibly make your application that much more appealing, you want to be careful not to burn yourself out by doing too much.
Do What You Love
Participating in an extracurricular activity because you think it will “win over” admissions officers is the wrong approach, writes college consultant Nancy Feiderspiel on her web site. Focus on quality over quantity—a full schedule is only impressive if you have a passion for what you do. Remember, the college admissions process is the beginning of your career as a college student, not the end.
Figure Out What’s Causing The Pressure
Is pressure coming from your peers?
Certain students do well in all their classes, have great GPAs and class ranks, and participate in a number of extracurricular activities. There is nothing wrong with measuring yourself with your peers; however, don’t turn school and the college admissions process into a competition.
In addition to hardworking and overachieving peers, pressure can also come from less academically-focused individuals. This kind of pressure can entail partying, skipping class, or a lax approach to studying and extracurricular activities. Measure yourself against your own progress and achievements.
If you continuously compare yourself to others, you will end up disappointed more times than not.
Be Realistic with Your College Choices
As you get closer to college, you will have a better understanding of where you stand in the application process. You need to make sure that the colleges you are looking at are realistic based on your profile.
If you are unsure whether you are qualified for a specific university, contact their admissions office and go over their standards. Divide your college choices into three categories: schools you are overqualified for, schools you expect to get into, and schools that may be a bit out of your range. You may want to run your list by your counselor as a “reality check” on your chances.
Select a healthy mix of schools from all three categories. While almost everyone has at least one “dream” school, don’t pressure yourself into thinking that there is only one college out there for you. Many college students do not get into their preferred universities, yet still have fulfilling college experiences.
Stay True to Yourself
Ultimately, the most important way to avoid unnecessary pressure is to focus on you. You don’t have control over how well (or poorly) your peers are performing in relation to you. As long as you are putting your best effort forward in everything you do, the stress and pressure of the college application process should prove manageable.
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