You are going to be fine.
Whether you’re still trying to finish your applications or you’re going through pints of Ben & Jerry’s as you wait to hear back from colleges, right now you’re probably feeling like biting your nails till they’re gone or running away to hide in a bear cave (or doing whatever it is you do to deal with stress). We collegiettes have all been where you are now, and we can assure you that you will make it out alive. Eventually, you’ll end up fine. Or better than fine.
Here are just a few reasons why there’s no need to panic.
1. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
As you click “submit” on your application, you wonder if all of those hours spent taking and re-taking the SATs, writing your personal statement and filling out forms will have been worth it. Maybe you feel a little dead inside.
Let’s not think of this feeling as “stress.” Let’s refer to your college-admission-related nerves as “apprehension.” Or perhaps “concern.” It’s actually very good that you’re feeling this. No, it’s not a pleasant feeling, but it’s good that you feel so invested in this. Your concern means you’re doing something that matters to you.
Your concern means you want to get into college and further your education. This might sound cheesy, but your concern is your strength. Sure, this concern might keep you up at night, or make you want to shut out the world and marathon-watch Pretty Little Liars. But that concern comes from an internal drive to challenge yourself, to learn and to grow. You think what you’re doing is important, and because it matters to you, you’re going to pull through.
2. Where you go to school is not a measure of your character.
We want to say that where you go doesn’t matter, but that’s not entirely true. If you hate winter, don’t apply to safety schools in upstate New York. If you love crowds, you might feel stifled at a school with 200 undergrads. Beyond that, though, if a school is a decent fit, it doesn’t really matter where you go or where you get accepted.
If you don’t get accepted to Harvard, it doesn’t mean the admissions people there don’t think you’re good enough. It simply means that everyone and their cat applies to Harvard, and only a few can get in. After a point, getting into competitive schools is simply a matter of luck. Besides, you might find that a highly ranked school is not the best place for you.
“I don’t understand why you need to go to an Ivy League just because it’s an Ivy League,” says Patricia, a senior at University of Rochester. “Prestige is not as important as a good fit.”
It doesn’t matter where you go, but what you do while you’re there does. Remember, Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls thought she wanted to go to Harvard, but ended up going elsewhere. If Rory had gone to Harvard, she never would have started dating Logan or taken over her school newspaper.
3. You have other things to focus on.
Your awesome collegiate experiences are still months away. Right now you can take advantage of your awesome high school experiences. Even in the midst of apprehension and concern, you can find comfort by focusing on the little things that will stick with you when you start college. “I miss climbing the trees outside of my high school,” says Ashleigh, a senior at the University of Rochester.
Laugh too loud when you joke with your friends during lunch, and absorb the bittersweet joy of senior celebrations. Take a walk at dusk and enjoy the feeling of being home. Find serenity wherever you can.
4. You’re going to love college.
You probably don’t hear this enough, but all of the hassle of getting teacher recommendations, signing up for the SAT and working on the common app will be worth it. College is a lot of fun. You have the chance to structure your time and make your own choices. If you want to eat cookies for breakfast one morning, your mom won’t be there to shake her head “no” (but we don’t recommend that as an everyday thing). You can take crazy classes and meet awesome people. You’re surrounded by people your own age, so there’s always something to do. You can dance all night with an attractive stranger or go stargazing at 2 a.m.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, yeah, if I get into ‘Oh My God I Want to Go Here So Bad’ University, then of course I’ll love college. But what if my top choice rejects me?” It’s natural to be concerned about not getting into your top choice—or getting into your top choice and not being able to afford it. It’s frustrating. We get this. But you’ve put a lot of effort into your applications, so even if you don’t get into your first choice school, you’re going to end up somewhere great.
Once you start getting involved in college life and meeting new people, you won’t even think about your dream school anymore, because you’ll be too busy enjoying your gorgeous window view from your dorm, your a cappella friends and your beloved gender studies professor. You’ll have a new dream school. “I can’t imagine my life without my roommate and our inside jokes,” says Ashleigh. But if you really can’t find yourself at home wherever you end up, remember that transferring is an option.
We confess that not everyone is made for college. You might discover that you’re one of those people. You’ll have a hard time, but at least you’ll discover something about yourself. Knowing what you don’t like helps you figure out what you do like.
But honestly, chances are you’ll love college.
5. You won’t remember being stressed.
A quick caveat: if you let your stress define your high school experience, then yes, you will remember it. However, if you’re spending your time going on adventures with friends, trying out photography and participating in senior year traditions, then you’ll probably remember those things first.
At some point, maybe a month or two into your freshman year of college, you’ll be walking across campus in the evening, thinking about a new friend you made or the dress you’ll wear to tonight’s party, and you’ll feel a breeze. You’ll look up at the orange and pink sky. Even though the night is approaching, the campus lights will keep the buildings and trees around you illuminated. You’ll take a deep breath. Know what you won’t be thinking?
“I wish I had scored better on the SATs.”
“I wonder if I could’ve gone to an Ivy if I had taken more AP classes.”
“Was my common app essay good enough?”
Certainly not, “Wow, I still feel really stressed about college admissions.”
You’ll just feel at home.
You’re going to be fine. In fact, you already are.