What to Do When Application Details and Deadlines Cause Anxieties to Mount

At our initial meetings with families, and deep in the DNA of our firm as a group of experienced educators, is a focus on the deepest, best interests of each student. We focus on getting to know what makes a student tick and what stories we might mine to help them introduce themselves as unique and wonderful individuals to schools and colleges. And, first and foremost, we focus on finding a great fit so that the individual and the school environment are in harmony, mutually benefitting and resonating to the same tune as often as possible. We are motivated by and find great joy in the sincere intention to honor the individual student by aligning their gifts and challenges with an environment in which we can reasonably predict that they will thrive.

I always feel great after these meetings. I’ve met wonderful people, and I can see that everyone wants to not only survive the college or school process intact but find in it some of the keys to a well-lived life: self-knowledge and acceptance, continued growth, connection to others, and the satisfaction of making a contribution beyond oneself.

By late October, however, like many students and parents, I find that I have to battle the waves of anxiety that hit, sometimes late at night, and their animating fears: what if my student isn’t accepted? What if he has no good option when all is said and done? What if she is devastated instead of uplifted and energized? What could I still do while there’s time left? And so start the turbocharged thoughts and plans and, if I’m not careful, the ill-advised late night emails and web searches.

At this time of year, breathing, walking in nature, exercising, and re-focusing on my deepest intentions keep me sane. Sometimes only barely, and sometimes for only a slight majority of the day, but sane enough to know why I do what I do and to approach it from the right perspective.

With societal pressures to succeed and to look good, and with the mounting anxieties of those around us, it’s hard to keep ‘Getting In’ from overwhelming ‘Best Fit.’ It’s hard to keep fear and anxiety from trumping our love for our students and our trust in their inner strength and wholeness. It’s a crazy world, and unfortunately, aspects of the school and college admission business, are as certifiable as our political process and tech-fueled paranoia. But we have our best intentions, our trust, and our love for our families to fall back on. For our family at McMillan Education, I wish us all a fall/winter deadline season in which we can remind ourselves of our deepest intentions and let this be our guide when the inevitable anxieties make themselves felt.

Here are some tips to make this so:

  • Breath, pause, and tune in to how you’re feeling so you don’t act on your anxiety. Instead, name it, accept it as a natural part of being human, and move on to the steps below.
  • Take positive action: go for a walk, listening to actual sounds and feeling the heat of the sun or the cool breeze on your cheeks instead of only the storm building in your mind.
  • Remind yourself of your intention, of the love in your heart that is motivating everything you do for the long-term well-being of your son or daughter. As Deepak Chopra writes, “Intention organizes it own fulfillment,” and it’s important to be open to the reality that this fulfillment may look different than we thought it would when we began the process.
  • Consider what actions will support this intention. Make a list, send an email, or pick up the phone out of your best intentions instead of your deepest fears. Things do need to be done: test scores sent to schools, conversations initiated to avoid any added stressors from miscommunication or misperception, and groceries need to be bought and sporting events or musical performances need to be attended.
  • And as you do your best to keep the faith, do pick up the phone and give us a call when the anxieties just won’t quiet down. We are school and college counselors, after all, and the broader picture we have from hundreds of students who have found their way could help buy you a little peace of mind at this hectic time of year.

So even as deadlines loom, let’s all breath and let our intentions, and the wise actions they inspire, carry the day.

About The Author

Jamie Paul