10 Antidotes to College-Application Anxiety

Admissions veterans advise students to go on casual campus visits, then make closer appraisals after learning which schools have accepted them.
Admissions veterans advise students to go on casual campus visits, then make closer appraisals after learning which schools have accepted them. (Jahi Chikwendiu - Twp)
By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The college search season is almost over. Letters have been opened. Decisions have been made.

But there's always next year, which is already this year for those trying to get into the best college . How can students and parents reduce the stress? Admissions directors, guidance counselors and other admissions veterans have many suggestions. Here are 10:

1. Getting into an Ivy League school is like winning at roulette: It is a game of chance that has little to do with brains or talent, so stop worrying about it.

Yale University accepted 8.6 percent of its applicants this year, an Ivy League low. Selective college admissions officers admit that they reject or wait-list many students who are just as good as the ones they accept. If the school is short on engineering majors or Idaho residents or piccolo players, applicants with those characteristics will be accepted. The rest will have to go elsewhere.

If you want to play that game, college admissions advisers say, go ahead. But, said Bethesda-based educational consultant Diane E. Epstein, "if denied admission, it is highly unlikely that there is anything wrong with you."

2. Don't fret about picking the wrong school. If you find it doesn't suit you, you can always transfer.

About 20 percent of students who graduate from a four-year college actually began at a different four-year college.

3. Treat campus visits like trips to a theme park.

You are probably on vacation anyway. Why not act like it? Don't try to write down everything. Don't interrogate the professors. Enjoy the scenery, listen to the guide and have lunch at the student union. After you know which schools have accepted you, you can make a more careful appraisal.

4. You need only two good extracurricular activities.

Colleges want to see you follow your dreams and your passions, not show off how many clubs you joined. Pick two things you really like, and give them the time they deserve. If you are an amateur baker, enter a pie in the county fair. If singing makes you happy, join the school choir and enter some talent shows.

5. Freaked out by the SAT? Take the ACT.


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