Spring can be a tense time for many high school seniors. Those who plan on going to college are finally hearing back from the schools to which they applied. (All while you wrap up finals, projects, and AP tests.)
While rejection is never easy, it becomes even more stressful when it can put the next four years of your life up in the air. You may worry that you’ll only be successful at your dream school, but it’s important to keep an open mind about every application you sent in. After all, you saw something of value when you applied, so try to keep that in focus as you hear back.
Here are some tips on how to cope with the stress of making that final college decision.
Avoid Black-and-White Thinking
Black-and-white thinking is another way to say “thinking in absolutes”. For example, thinking, “If I don’t get into College A, then I’ll never go on to get my masters.” Or, “If I go to College B, I’ll always end up with low-paying jobs.”
Remember that right now, you’re every college’s primary target in advertising. Colleges flex high job placement rates, high average grades, and other appealing feats to convince students that going to their school is what made them successful students.
However, the truth is that success can come from anywhere. It’s about the work you put in, not where you put in that work. Consider the success stories of college drop-outs like Bill Gates, or, on a smaller scale, Claire Coder.
Consider the Best and Worst-Case Scenarios
Avoiding talking about the results we’re dreading only gives them more power over us. It makes space for anxiety to build and narrows your vision for the future.
Instead, rationally discuss the best and worst-case scenarios with a parent, friend, or counselor.
Best-case scenario? You get into your dream school and study the major you set your focus on years ago. Worst-case scenario? You attend a different school and discover a new field that interests you like nothing has before.
To ease your mind, know that around 80% of students change their major at least once over the course of college. One 2020 study even found that 61% of degree holders would change their majors if they could do it all again. (Though 82% still believe that going was a smart financial investment.)
What may be life-or-death to you now could be regrettable by the time you’re 25—there’s no way to know! Let this take some of the pressure off making the “right” decision now. Life comes with changes, and there’s not always a clear right or wrong answer.
Get to Know Who You Are Without College Attached
Remember, you’re so much more than a degree holder. No matter where you go, it can never take away from the strengths you already have. Maybe you’re a phenomenal guitarist, a caring friend, a competitive gamer, or an excellent party planner.
Take time to love and nourish these parts of yourself as your senior year comes to a close. Not everyone even goes to college, but does that make them any less of a person? Of course not!
Lean Into Your Senior Year
While you may be preoccupied with college decisions in your off-time, try to stay present when those once-in-a-lifetime senior year events happen. Get excited about spirit week, have fun planning for prom, attend those last few sporting events, and do the little traditions that your school has.
Paint the rock out front, get breakfast with friends on senior skip day, or have a hand in the class prank. Try not to take things too seriously right now.
If you’re struggling to separate your identity from your college decision, try talking it out with an anxiety counselor. Together, we can work on grounding techniques that will set you up for success no matter where you end up.
You’ve got this.