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Article Outlines Ways to Reduce Stress of College-Admissions Process

Between writing college essays, deciding where to apply, and figuring out how to pay for it all, the college-search process can be a big stressor for high school students.

A new article in the Journal of College Admissions  outlines ways for students to manage the process and suggestions for school counselors to help ease anxiety. The authors are Julie Vultaggio, assistant dean of the Doctor of Education Leadership program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Stephen Friedfeld, co-founder of AcceptU, an admission counseling group.

Although high school students are in the throes of meeting application deadlines now, the paper includes good strategies to help keep the process in perspective. The authors analyzed results of a small survey of students who recently went through the college-admissions experience.

Here are some highlights from recent graduates about their advice for high school students about to embark on the process:

Start early. Students themselves advise their peers to think about their college application as early as ninth grade. Visit schools on vacation. Take the college-entrance exams early and then re-take them.

Ask for help. Getting feedback on an essay or seeking help can be a good strategy to allievate anxiety before it happens.

Exhale and keep a balance. Students acknowledge the application and decision-making process can be emotional. They suggest students not aim for perfection, but be themselves and have faith the process will work out.

The paper's authors conclude with their own ideas, including recommendations for school counselors:

Provide access to information:

• Engage parents during their child's freshman and sophomore years to explain the process. Host a panel of recent graduates and their parents to talk about the experience and share tips.

• Encourage students to join colleges' mailing lists to learn when they can meet with college representatives visitng the area and push them to visit campuses.

Promote time management:

• Help students develop timelines for the application process and provide information on strategies to pace themselves. Hold workshops staffed by teachers and counselors to help with essays and forms.

• Check in regularly with students. Send automated emails to applicants asking if they have questions and offering your help.

Be responsive.

• Offer brief, 20-minute appointments. Hold office hours or host small-group sessions to answer students' questions quickly about applications.

• Encourage students to come in for general support to talk about feelings of stress. Remind applicants that admission does not define their personal importance. While counselors and families cannot eliminate stress, they can help reduce it.

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