Don't worry

I lament how stressful the college application process is. Higher education professionals everywhere do. On some level, I think a few people believe that, because the process of making admissions decisions is so complicated and often not transparent, that admissions professionals are uncaring and faceless.

That couldn't be further from the truth. There are many wonderful people working through innovative ways to make college applications less high stakes. But that will be a long battle involving a lot of interrelated mindset shifts, changes in cultural expectations, and public policy.

In the meantime, let's talk about what you can control. I love dividing college admissions into factors that you can and cannot control. I talk about it in a blog post that I constantly reference.

I received an e-mail recently from the mother of one of my clients - an amazing student doing all of the right things inside and outside of the classroom. She has literally been losing sleep over the anxiety and stress related to helping her son navigate this process.

I find my professional role is equal parts admissions strategist and worry management coach. Now that I work directly with students and their families, I am gaining insight into the world of worrying that was largely inaccessible to me when I worked as an admissions counselor for the University of Texas.

Here is my unedited response as part of a longer exchange:

"I’m really sorry to hear you are losing sleep over all of this… Rightfully I imagine it comes from your desire to want the best for [your son], and the educational opportunities open to him. I wish this process wasn’t so stressful and anxiety-inducing, and it saddens me to see people worrying over it. I’m not a parent and I’m not in a position to give parenting advice. I just know my parents, raising my brother and I the best they could, always trusted me to make the right decisions and that life would work out in the long run regardless of where I go and what I do.

I imagine you’ve raised a wonderful son. We will do our best to get him into UT, but I have no doubt he will excel wherever he ends up.

...One thing within an applicant and their family’s control is what they decide to worry about. It’s easy for me to sit here and say not to worry about it, or not pay attention to what his peers are doing, but I’m not the one applying nor have a child who’s future is wrapped up in this process. I recognize that.

It’s the best advice I can give, truly  – breathe, everything will be okay.

Trust in the process and not the outcome. [Your son] can’t control the outcome, only the work he puts forward. Students and families who put so much emphasis on the admissions results are undoubtedly set themselves up for disappointment."