When I was applying to college, I was a nervous wreck. I had my heart set on NYU, and every day I found a new anxiety to obsess over. Who’s looking at my application right now? That thing my teacher said in the reference letter could make them think I’m lazy. Should I have picked a different story for my essay? I imagined the elation I’d feel when the school of my dreams opened its arms to me. And the alternative? That was far too painful to consider.
You do not have to make yourself sick awaiting news from your top-choice college. The anxiety, dread, and foreboding are entirely optional. There are healthier ways to deal with your stress than staring catatonically at your phone waiting for the magic email.
Besides making yourself sick, you’ll make your friends and family want to pull their hair out. These are your final months in high school. Enjoy them, please!
Self-Care for College Admission
Below are tips on how you can take care of yourself right now, even before you get your perfect “Yes:”
Get Enough Sleep
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teenagers get between eight and ten hours of sleep each night, but many teens fall far short of that amount. The average high school student averages about 6.5-7 hours of sleep a night, and one-third get only 5-6!
If you want to be smarter, losing sleep is a problem. The last sleep cycle, which lasts about 90 minutes, helps your brain store previously learned knowledge and prepare to acquire new knowledge. Not only that, there are other side effects, like grumpiness or mood swings, overeating or under-eating, headaches, nausea, and decreased immune system function.
While you can’t stop teachers from over-assigning homework (a topic for another newsletter), there are things you can control for better self-care for college admissions season. If you don’t have a bedtime for yourself, try to implement one, then experiment with moving it up. How do you feel after 6.5 hours of sleep, 6.75 hours, 7, and so on? Note your stress levels and overall happiness the following day. Your goal is to feel good and energized enough to handle whatever stressors come your way.
Take Care of Your Body
Sleeping enough is one way to take care of your body—and it’s a big one, so we started there – but don’t forget the other basics either, like:
- Drink plenty of water. However much you’re drinking right now, could you up it by 8 oz. daily?
- Move your body a few times a week, in whatever way is fun for you.
- Add more healthy foods to your diet, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and protein.
Do I sound like your mom here? Maybe (and full disclosure, I am a mom). But these little actions make a big difference in your overall health and happiness. When you’re fixated on the future, it’s easy to forget basic maintenance required for your well-being. But forget these fundamentals and you’ll find yourself slipping into stress. Keep in mind this quote, speaker anonymous:
“Drink water. Get sunlight. You’re basically a houseplant with more complicated emotions.”
Limit Social Media
This tip for self-care for college admissions season may be the hardest tip of all; and also the most important. How much time do you spend on social media a day? Activate your phone’s screen time feature to learn the actual number. If the number is high, my bet is that you’re not as happy as you could be.
This bet is backed by science. Teens with higher usage of social media were more likely to report mental health issues; and nearly three times more likely to suffer depression. It makes sense to me. What we see on social media doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. It’s a highlight reel, curated images, and video that communicate the image we want to show others.
I’m so glad social media wasn’t a thing when I was in high school. If I’d seen videos of other students getting into NYU—thousands of them, available 24/7—I would have been even more of an anxious mess. And I would have felt so lonely, seeing all those kids achieve the thing I wanted.
Ask yourself: how do you feel after spending an hour on social media? If the answer is anything but “fantastic,” it’s time to cut back. When are you tempted to reach for your phone? How could you interrupt that pattern and replace it with a habit that will make you happier? Read a book, go for a run, bake cupcakes, sit under a tree: how you interrupt unhealthy social media tendencies doesn’t matter, just so long as you do it. It’s okay to be behind on your feed, I promise. Your mental health should be your first priority.
Lean into friendships
Another way to self-care for college admissions season is all about friends! When things get tough, we need the people who have our back. Peer support is one of the most important protective factors against low mental well-being, so it’s important to share your time with those who understand you and will celebrate you, win or lose.
If you hang out with your friends and someone (or you!) brings up stress about college, do your best to shut that down. If you’re a nervous wreck, don’t hang around people who amplify your nervous energy. Make fun the primary goal of your friend hangouts.
Likewise, celebrate your friends on their big wins. If you and your bestie are applying to the same college and they get their acceptance letter while you’re still waiting—or after you’ve gotten a ‘No’—respond the way you hope your friend would respond if the situation were reversed. Having good relationships is more important than being accepted to the most prestigious school on your list. College is only four years: friendships can be for life. Savor these high school days and the people who make them special. They won’t come around again.
College will be here soon; for now, appreciate where you are, how far you’ve come, and all that lies ahead. Where you are now is exactly where you’re meant to be.
Image by halayalex on Freepik