College Planning Expert’s Tip of the Month – June

Sayonara to senior-year stress!
If you plan ahead and take some time out to relax, you can be stress-free senior year even amidst all the college applications, letters of recommendation and other things you must deal with!

By: Stephen Burleigh ( article reprinted from Next Step Magazine)

“I was really stressed this weekend. I have a calculus test coming up, which means I have to do the homework for the past two weeks. I also have a physics quiz, which, of course, I was behind in that class by two chapters. So I played field hockey on Saturday with the team, and then did all the physics homework on Saturday and Sunday. Then I had two papers for English class. …I swear I am not going to make it; I am going to die!”

That’s how Eve Lin described high school life in Denise Clark Pope’s excellent book, Doing School.

In Pope’s study, all six students profiled said they experienced severe anxiety or breakdowns, and four out of six had persistent health and sleep problems.

Many students believe that acceptance to a selective college is the key that unlocks the door to success in life, and that enduring any amount of stress is worth the reward. The average admit rate for all Ivies in 2008 was about 12 percent. Does that mean the other 88 percent, many of whom
had perfect SAT scores or were valedictorians, are failures? Not at all.

The first step to a less stressful senior year begins with you. Ask yourself these questions:

• What are my core values?

• What do I enjoy doing?

• What am I passionate about?

• What would I like to change about myself?

• Where would I like to be in 10, 15 or 20 years?

• What career inspires me?

• Who do I admire?

• What physical, cultural and academic environment supports my sense of self?

The better you know yourself, the better your chances of escaping the pressure to pick a college just to impress your parents or your best friends. Define yourself, pursue your own path and be bold enough to set your own realistic expectations.

Of course, the demands of your senior year won’t come to a halt because you’re busy preparing for and taking standardized tests, researching colleges, visiting, interviewing, filling out applications, getting letters of recommendation, making sure your transcripts go out on time, writing essays and filling out financial aid applications. There’s still your day job as a fully functioning high school senior to deal with.

That’s the flash point at which many hardworking students run the risk of becoming like Eve.

According to the Nemours Foundation, which offers advice on teen health, symptoms of chronic stress can be:

• Anxiety or panic attacks

• A feeling of being constantly pressured, hassled and hurried

• Irritability and moodiness

• Physical symptoms such as stomach problems, head aches or even chest pain

• Allergic reactions such as eczema or asthma

• Problems sleeping

• Drinking too much, smoking, overeating or doing drugs

• Sadness or depression

Stress is a fact of life. It’s a byproduct of the fight-or-flight function of our nervous system. Acute stress can save us in a crisis or cause us to rise to the challenge of an important event, but chronic stress brought about by the pressures of daily life can be debilitating unless managed.

If you’re college bound, you can reduce senior stress by using the summer to visit colleges, interview with admissions representatives, prep for standardized tests and begin drafting personal statements for applications.

The more college admission work you do before school resumes, the less likely you’ll be stressed in November.

Here are some tips for managing a stressful work load

• Develop time management skills. Don’t over schedule your day. Create realistic expectations and deadlines. Plan ahead and prioritize tasks.

• Pace yourself. Remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. That goes for school and the college admission process.

• Don’t let little things become big things. Take care of small tasks as they arise.

• Remember, nobody’s perfect. Don’t demand perfection from yourself or from others.

• Take time out of your busy schedule to have fun or relax. Find out what activities engender a feeling of well-being within you. It could be reading for pleasure, playing music or singing, meditation, deep breathing exercises, an afternoon power nap, a game of chess—anything that takes your mind off school and relaxes you.

• Regular exercise is a proven method of minimizing stress. Find something vigorous to do that increases your heart rate for at least 20 minutes a few times a week.

• Eat well, be well. Too much junk food or fast food will contribute to your high stress levels. Good nutrition is essential to a healthy mind and body.

• Get plenty of rest. Avoid all-nighters and eleventh-hour cram sessions fueled by caffeine. Sleeplessness and chronic fatigue exacerbate stress.

• Stay positive. Don’t get caught in a cycle of negativity and frustration. Look for solutions to problems. Learn to be patient and understanding of other people’s behavior.

• Seek professional help if you feel overburdened and unable to cope. Don’t put off talking to a counselor or health care professional if you feel overwhelmed by stress.

• Don’t shut out your parents. According to the Mayo clinic, “Adolescents who have positive relationships with their parents tend to handle stress more effectively as adults.”

~ article courtesy of David Mammano, College Planning Expert, Campus Calm

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