School, Socialize, Stress: Balancing Your College To-Do List
Between homework, extracurriculars and maintaining a social life, it's no doubt that college-bound students are facing myriad pressures, not the least of which is the overwhelming terrain of the college admission process. With a sense of the steps you need to accomplish over the next few months, it's time to take a deep breath and dig in -- and using a list can help you stay on track.
Make a College Calendar or Checklist
First, it's important to get organized. Make a college checklist of all the things you need to do for your applications. From asking teachers for college recommendations to applying for financial aid and scholarships, assign yourself deadlines and put them all on the list. Then, plot your application-related deadlines in a notebook or calendar app along with your homework, projects and papers. Don't forget to schedule time on the calendar for your away games or work shifts. The goal is to map out everything you must accomplish over the month, semester or year.
Marking important dates ahead of time ensures that nothing falls through the cracks, sure, but it also helps you see potential pressure points in your schedule. Do you have a college application deadline and a major chemistry final on the same day? Avoid a head-on collision by getting your application done early! Remember, you can't necessarily study too far in advance, but you can work on your applications whenever you have some down time — like drafting those college essays over spring or summer break.
Set Checkpoints to Stay on Track
So you've got everything laid out in a big grid or worksheet or calendar. Now what? Take things one step at a time. Break your big projects into smaller ones. It's easier to plan, and every task you get done will help you feel more confident and accomplished along the way. As one college counselor I know puts it, “It's easier to break a boulder into pieces than trying to move it all at once."
Remember Where to Find Help -- And When to Seek It
While balancing everything might seem like an impossible task that will eventually bring your sanity to a crippling end, it's important to remember that you have a support system. Your friends, your parents and your college counselors are all in your corner, waiting and eager to help you. Sometimes just talking with others can be a source of help when it comes to relieving some of the stress. Becoming too wrapped up in your own situation can take its toll in ways you might not anticipate. Take advantage of workshops your guidance office may offer on specific aspects of the admission process. At The Princeton Review, we offer quite a few free webinars on many college admission topics.
The bottom line on stress? Although there isn't much that students can do to get colleges to send out those big and little envelopes any faster, there are some strategies to prevent the worst stress from wreaking havoc on everyone involved. If you ask lots of questions to help you understand the process, start early, take it one step at a time and apply to several carefully selected, appropriate schools, you can rest assured that you've done everything in your power to make the process go as smoothly as possible.