How to Beat College Admissions Anxiety


Your child may be feeling confident after acing their college admissions interviews

But, chances are your child is anxiously waiting to hear back from the various colleges they applied to.

While anxiety is a natural part of the college admissions process, your child may be focusing too much on their future and getting carried away with “what if” questions and scenarios.

“What if I don’t get in to my dream school? I’ll be such a loser!”

“What if I’m not as smart or as special as other applicants?”

Creating these worst-case scenarios in our heads leads to negative feelings and often down a spiral of even more anxiety!

Fortunately, there are several great techniques your child can borrow from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to manage their anxiety with minimal effort:

Recognize that you’re feeling anxious, and accept it.

Anxiety can be described as a negative feeling brought upon by worrying about future events (e.g., not getting into college).

Recognizing that anxiety is a feeling like any other (e.g., happiness, anger, etc.) will help your child accept and eventually overcome it.

On the other hand, trying to fight their thoughts will likely makes your child's anxiety worse. In addition, focusing on the present will help your child manage their anxiety and focus on things that they can actually currently control.

Understand that your mind is playing tricks on you, and question your thoughts

While waiting for admissions decisions, your child's mind may trick them into believing that their negative thoughts are rational or even factual.

For example, not getting into their top-choice school may lead your child to believe that they’re "dumb" or that they’re "a failure."

Is this actually the case? Will an admissions decisionwhether an acceptance or rejectionreally affect your child's intelligence? Will the decision determine whether your child will ever again be successful at anything?

Most of the time, our deepest concerns are not realistic. Therefore, your child should also practice positive self-talk to replace their negative thoughts.

Saying something like, “I can get over my over anxiety” will help your child cope with their difficult feelings. Practicing positive self-talk out loud and/or while looking in the mirror may be even more effective.

Take deep breaths

When we feel anxious, our thoughts race so quickly that we sometimes stop breathing normally.

By stopping to take deep breaths, your child can signal their body to go into relaxation mode.

To help take their mind off worries, your child should additionally try counting while they take deep breaths.

For example, they can close their eyes and breathe in through their nose to a very slow count of 2, hold their breath for another count of 2, and slowly exhale through their mouth. They should then repeat this 10 times.

Practicing deep breathing (and progressive muscle relaxation, below) when they're calm will help your child do so more effectively when they're anxious.

Tense your muscles, and release them

Unintentionally tensing various parts of our bodies (e.g., pinching our shoulders, clenching our teeth, making a fist, etc.) is common when we’re anxious.

To relax their muscles and at the same time get their minds off anxious thoughts, your child should try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR).

To practice PMR, your child could simply close their eyes and bring their shoulders up to their ears for about 5 seconds, notice how tight it feels, and then release their shoulders. Then, your child should clench their fists really tightly for 5 seconds before relaxing, followed by curling their toes for 5 seconds and then releasing.

Your child should practice each of these PMR techniques 3 times before finally tensing their shoulders, fists, and toes at the same time before releasing.

Do something!

Instead of hanging out with theirr worries alone in their room, your child should do something fun!

Hanging out with friends, exercising, going to a movie, or anything else that gets your child moving, out of the house, or thinking about something else will be helpful. It will also make the college decision waiting game a lot more pleasant.

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