College Applications: Turning Stress Into Success

Emma Nicholson, Writer

As we get further into the school year, it seems that college/career planning is on the mind of more and more students. Applications are being filled out, final lists are being made, and essays are being finished. Though it is a stressful time, it is also an exciting time. You are essentially working on the best way to market yourself to colleges that you may possibly call your future home. And that, is exciting in and of itself.

But what are the best ways to manage the stress of college application process and still put your best foot forward?

To get some insight, I spoke with head of guidance, Ms. McVay, regarding her take on the college and career planning process.

Keep it Individual

With so many options for colleges and universities, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Ms. Mcvay ‘s best advice for all seniors is to “Remember that this is an individualized process. Lots of people have opinions and it is hard to separate what’s best for you versus what your peers are doing/saying.  Reach out to your guidance counselor frequently to make sure you are making decisions based on what is right for you!” 

Additionally, she recommends keeping yourself organized–“Organization is key! Spreadsheets often help keep students and families organized.  These will help keep deadlines, standardized testing information, and other key application information in one location.”

Use Your Resources

There are a variety of college planning services available to all students that can be great for selecting schools to apply to, narrowing down your list, and even deciding where to attend. 

CollegeBoard is a free service for high school students providing registration opportunities for AP Exams and SAT tests, developing college application lists, test prep, and more.

“Naviance and College Board have a wealth of resources for both college and career planning,” says Ms. Mcvay.

All students have access to Naviance on their chromebooks. This is a way for students to plan out their applications, research schools, and also is important for inputting recommendation letter requests, surveys, and career search services. Anyone who does not know their Naviance password, please email your guidance counselor to have this re-set.


Emma Nicholson
Scattergrams is a service that will use your GPA and SAT scores to determine where you fall on a graph of admissions in comparison to past accepted students.

A great tool on Naviance is called Scattergrams. This tool compares your statistics (GPA, SAT/ACT, rank) with students who have been either accepted/denied to a college or university. Scattergrams uses a graph format to show your chances of getting in to a school in comparison to previous applicants.  This should give you some idea of where you fall in terms of admissions acceptance to a specific school.


Emma Nicholson
Some students opt to use a planner to keep track of deadlines for college applications. Be sure to specify “Early Action” and “Early Decision” deadlines if applicable.

As far as organizational tools, Google Sheets is a tool available to all students that may be helpful for keeping deadlines in a spreadsheet format.  Additionally, Google Docs has the ability to create a table feature for students if that is helpful.

Other organizational tools used by students include Google Keep, “Whenever” (feature available on chromebooks), and Toggl.



Communication is Key

At this time all seniors should have all submitted a “Meeting Request Form” to guidance. This will initiate the process of scheduling a meeting with your counselor to discuss where you are at in the process.

Emma Nicholson
All seniors should have filled out this form to schedule a meeting with their counselor. Please continue to check your email for any updates on scheduling.

Additionally, make sure to be in contact with your recommenders, and let them know if you are applying early to any schools. This will help them submit your letters on time.

But of all of our resources for this process, guidance counselors are arguably the most valuable to students.

Communicate frequently with your guidance counselor,” says Ms. Mcvay. “We are here to help!”

Stay Calm

Though the process can seem daunting, do your best to take care of yourself and stay as calm as possible during these times of high stress. Some strategies include:

  • Take short ten-minute breaks during working sessions
  • Make time for yourself, do not spend longer than an hour or two a day on your applications
  • Put on your favorite playlist
  • Grab a sweet treat or iced coffee to help get you through your applications
  • Start a planner to help keep track of deadlines
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help
  • Use your resources

The college application process can be exciting; you have the opportunity to recap all of your high school achievements and put your best foot forward. In the face of stress, remember that one year from now this process will be over, and you will have found the right college for you.