In an ideal world everything -school, friends, family, time- would stop so you could go through the stressful college process in peace, but it doesn’t. The world keeps turning, and those due dates keep getting closer. Occasionally things come up that are serious crises, things that would be stressful and horrible even without the added pressure of applying to college. Here are three stories from three different college freshman on what issues they dealt with during the college process.
When David was just beginning the college process with preparation for the SATs and maintaining his grades, his grandmother, who was dying of cancer, moved in with his family so they could take care of her. Some of the immediate consequences he dealt with were, “less sleep and waking up early” to help his grandmother with her care. David did not have anyone to talk to about what he was going through and experienced additional physical and emotional stress. He tried to “suck it up” and only occasionally talked to his mom about the situation.
Although it was an awful time, in retrospect David says there were some positives to the situation. David’s grandmother was Italian, and his Italian improved because he had to communicate with her. Now he is planning to take Italian in college. When asked what advice he would give others going through a similar situation, he said: “Keep a level head, it will be over eventually. It seems like a really dark time now, but it will get better, you will get past this.”
Liam’s problems arose when at the beginning of his senior year he had such severe problems with an ex-girlfriend that the issue eventually went to the administration of his boarding school. “I often had to deal with my ex and couldn’t finish college apps in a timely fashion. I felt rushed later in the process, my grades dropped, and I didn’t see my friends much.” In an attempt to catch up on college apps he would skip out on other responsibilities like schoolwork and his sports practices.
Looking back, Liam wishes he had sought help from adults earlier on. Some issues are just too big for us to deal with on our own, and you need outside help to mediate the conflict. When you have a lot on your plate it’s best to try to head scheduling conflicts off before they become overwhelming. Be honest with the teachers and coaches you can trust and see what they can do to help.
During my senior year I went through a break up that made me feel horrible and alone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it because it didn’t feel like a big enough problem to concern other people, and because I kept it to myself, it consumed me. I lost all interest in hanging out with friends and going out, and when I did things often ended badly.
While emotionally this was a tough time, a benefit that I see looking back on it is that I created an escape for myself in the work I had to do for the college process. Suddenly school work and applying to college seemed like a problem with an ultimate solution rather than my personal problems. When I think back to that time I often say that as far as the college process I didn’t feel stressed, but I was stressed out about other things and my mental health suffered. I think that I should have tried to find other ways to occupy my time besides work and ruminating on my former relationship.
It’s impossible to predict what problems will occur when, and so the best we can do when they rear their heads during already stressful times is to stay calm and focused. Break big projects like essays and test prep into smaller sections that can be interspersed with things you might have to do regarding your life conflicts. Keep in mind that the college process has a more or less definite end date, and the other problems you’re dealing with will pass eventually as well.