How Much Should You Tell Your BFFs About Your College Applications?

College applications. The very phrase can trigger an explosion of stress and excitement, anxiety and anticipation. For some the search for the perfect school is a fun, match-making-esque process, but for others it’s a sea of essays, transcript requests, financial aid packets and the occasional overwhelming wave of not feeling good enough.

Sounds like the perfect time for your best friends to swoop in and reassure you, right?

Not so fast. While it’s awesome to have a support group like your BFFs ready to give you advice, remind you how awesome you are, celebrate your victories and comfort you in your failures, the college application process is extremely personal.

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Keeping the personal private

For one thing, applying to schools and ultimately picking the one that’s best for you is your decision and yours alone. It’s personal, sometimes emotional, and often something people choose to keep private. Seniors in high school are already so stressed with figuring out their future that talking about it can actually just add to the overwhelming load. Clare Kenney, a sophomore at Marquette University, agrees that it’s a personal decision and should be treated as such, so friends may not have a primary role.

“I think they can provide support especially if you don’t get into a school you wanted to go to, but other than that, I think it is kind of a personal process and your friends shouldn’t help you determine what schools to apply to and which schools you shouldn’t,” she explains.

It’s completely up to you to decide how much you want to share with your friends. Sometimes less is more when it comes to sharing academic and financial details. Clare took a more cautious approach when it came to sharing information about her college application process. One primary reason was the sheer stress associated with it, because sometimes it seems like college is the only thing seniors in high school, their parents and their teachers want to talk about.

“I would say I was more quiet when it came to the college application process mainly because there was so much pressure and it was a constant topic of discussion with my parents,” she says. “So with friends, I just wanted to talk about anything other than applying to college.”

Claire McHugh, a sophomore at the University of Dayton, also avoided the topic because it was discussed almost everywhere else.

“I felt like that was the only thing my parents would talk to me about as well as teachers and counselors,” Claire explains. “I preferred not to talk about with my friends.”

In the same way most people prefer to keep their business and personal lives separate, it might be beneficial to keep academics at a distance from personal relationships. Plus, talking about college all the time just ends up making the stress worse.

Selectivity insecurity

The selectivity of colleges can also play a major factor in how much information you choose to share. For some, there’s a risk of running into a potentially uncomfortable situation of telling everyone their dream school and then not getting in. Clare applied to mostly selective schools, so while she would tell her close friends what schools she was applying to, she avoided going into detail about which she preferred.

“I never really gave my opinions on if I liked one over the other just because of the pressure of getting in and everything,” Clare says.

Meg Thompson, a sophomore at the University of Kansas, agrees the selectiveness of schools can determine how open people are while applying.

“I think friends' involvement just depends on what kind of schools you're applying to,” she says. “For me, I wasn't applying to that many competitive colleges, so people assumed I would get in. I never ran into a situation where someone asked if I got into my dream school and I had to say no. If I had applied to more selective schools I probably would have shared that with one or two best friends for moral support, but kept it mostly quiet.”

If you're applying to more selective schools and feel uncertain about your chances, you don’t have to share every single school you're applying to. At the same time though, applying to selective schools and not getting in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You should take pride in striving to get into the best school you can, and if you feel comfortable, letting people know that you're driven to do your best. Whether you end up at that reach school or not, you took a risk and that’s nothing to be insecure about.

Related: 7 Things College Admissions Officers Don’t Tell You

Push to the (competitive) edge

In addition to the pressure and uncertainty of acceptance, sometimes discussions about college can bring out a more competitive side and strain friendships. For some reason, if you see a school’s acceptance rate is 25%, you feel like it’s between you and the three other people from your high school and only one of you can get in. Cue the competitive pressure.

“I did not talk with my friends about applications too much just because sometimes that kind of thing can get uncomfortable and kind of competitive in a way,” Claire says. “I think it is just the way teenagers going through the college decision process are wired [and] always on edge.”

It can also depend on your friends’ personalities. Some might be very open about everything, so a big decision like college is naturally going to be shared among them. For others, a group might not be as tight knit or small so people don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing. Conversations, group texts and Snaps may be filled with other topics completely unrelated to college applications.

“All in all I don't think it was the personality of our friend group to talk about that kind of thing,” Claire adds. “For example, I could not tell you what anyone's college essay was about.”

Since people are often looking for “the perfect fit” when it comes to schools, that can mean friends are looking for completely different qualities in a college because they value different things when it comes to education and student life. It’s likely your friend group is made up of people from a variety of academic levels and extracurricular interests, so it might be disheartening to talk to your Ivy League-bound bestie and hear her reference your reach school as her backup. One person’s reach is another person’s safety school.

Picking you up when you're down

However, friends are also a key component of your support system. When you’re confronted with feelings of inadequacy, wondering if you’ll ever find a college right for you or if you’ll get into your dream school, they are there to build you up.

“Friends are a super great tool when it does come to college application time because it's oftentimes difficult or awkward to think of positive thing a to say about yourself or to think of good ideas of what to write about for a college essay,” says Kat Mediavilla, a sophomore at Kansas State University.

Who knows you better than your best friends? They can give helpful insights about schools you’re on the fence about and offer their perspectives on where you might fit in best. It might even be helpful to have them read through your essays to make sure you actually sound like you. Friends can remind you of who you are during a time when it’s easy to lose sight of yourself amongst numbers that are supposed to define you, like grades and test scores.

In the end, it’s completely your decision with whom you’ll share sensitive information. Be cautious with how much you opt to share, but don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Friends support one another, and if it’s a strong relationship, petty things like competition and insecurity shouldn’t come between lifting one another up.

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Kansas City native with a love for reading, writing, Julie Andrews, and tea.