How to get through school application season without totally losing sight of reality

Whether you’re a high school senior applying to colleges, or a college student or grad applying to grad school, application season is awful. There’s nothing like your future resting in the hands of an anonymous committee to make you rev up into full-on freak-out mode. Between personalizing essays with absurd word counts to obsessing over every point on the SAT or GRE, it can be hard to remember to take care of yourself.

Though it may not seem like it, your studies, experience, and hard work cannot be negated by the fear of one rejection letter. Wherever you end up, any school is what you make of it. You can skip class at an Ivy League or build close relationships with professors at a state school — the experience is entirely up to you and there is no right path.

Through it all, the most important thing you can learn is how to take care of yourself, even in the face of pressure and stress, and there’s no better time to learn that lesson than right now. Here’s how you can make it through these months of uncertainty while still remembering to be good to the most important person: You.

Accept that there’s no secret formula for acceptance — or success

There’s no algorithm that combines your test scores, essays, and GPA to determine whether or not you’ll get in to the school of your dreams. Believe it or not, schools are concerned about how well of a fit they are for you, as well as you are for them.

Even if you do get into a top-tier school, success is not guaranteed. The name of the school doesn’t matter as much as what you do while you’re there. And it certainly doesn’t matter how you got there — transferring, starting at community college, or taking a gap year are always options.

Try not to set all your hopes on one school

There’s nothing more dangerous than imagining one school as superior to all the rest. Unless you’re applying early decision, choosing a favorite too early can only hurt you later — even if you get in, you should consider all your options before deciding.

At the very least, try not to buy all the college swag on your tour. Once you choose your school, all the sweatshirts from everywhere else you visited will be going straight to the donation pile.

Have nights when you’re not allowed to talk about it

Have a sleepover with your friends and make a rule that no one is allowed to bring up applications, not even once. Instead, have a dance party to “Shake It Off.” Instant de-stresser.

Cut down on social media 

Seeing other people post their acceptances online will only stress you out more. (I’m looking at you, early-decision braggers.) For every acceptance you see someone post on social media, there were probably five rejections that will never make it to a news feed. So instead of passive-aggressively refusing to like your friends’ college-related statuses, try turning off the computer. Acceptances and rejections won’t seem like such a big deal when you walk away from the screen.

Try a new sport

Even though you may feel like you have to spend every waking minute being productive, try to get outside and exercise. Whether yoga or running is your thing, reconnecting with your body is key to calming stress and feeling grounded.

Don’t take rejection personally

It can be hard to keep perspective when it feels like the whole of your future is resting in someone else’s hands — but remember, that feeling is false. At the end of the day, you’re the one who will be accepting or rejecting the schools you get into.

Speaking as someone who didn’t get into what was originally my top choice, I’m so much happier at the school I’m at now than I would have been anywhere else!

Appreciate the stage of life you’re at now

High school, college and those early post college years are some of the most exciting times of your life — so try not to waste a minute worrying about what you can’t control. Instead, take the time to make the most of every day and be your best self. After all, everyone who has gone to school has had to apply to school meaning at some point or another most of us will go through the same thing you are right now — so enjoy yourself.

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