Application Anxiety: Cranford High School Seniors Discuss College Application-Related Stress

Cranford Public School will open on Friday, April 6, for what was previously the last day of spring break. Credits: Leah Scalzadonna

CRANFORD, NJ - The stretch between autumn and spring can seem like an endless period of anxiety and impatience when a student’s future hangs in the balance. High school seniors sit with baited breath, incessantly refreshing their emails or lurking by their mailboxes, hoping to see a congratulatory email or big envelope from their first-choice college.

In a study of 83 Cranford High School seniors, about 40 percent of seniors applied to between seven and nine colleges. About 40 percent of the students have heard back from the all the colleges to which they applied.

Of the students polled, approximately 34 percent reported feeling anxious.

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“I felt extremely anxious during the whole process,” senior Brittany Triano, who applied to 12 schools, said. “You sometimes do not know when you will hear back, and when other people started hearing back, I got nervous as well. There is a lot of stress that comes with waiting, and a lot of questioning your application once you hit submit.”

When trying to handle the anxiety, students said they spent time with friends or exercised.

“I talked to my friends because we are all in the same situation and share the same feelings during this process, so we support and reassure one another,” senior Laura Feeney, who applied to seven schools, said.

In the poll, 60 percent of students said they were most anxious to hear back from their first-choice school.

On the other hand, 40 percent of students said they were most nervous to be rejected from a school that they felt they were smart enough to get into because they would be embarrassed.

“[I was particularly anxious to hear back from] University of Texas at Austin because it was my top choice,” senior Kevin Schwartz, who applied to nine schools, said. “Unfortunately I got rejected, and I was really sad and disappointed at first, but now I’m probably going to commit to Temple University.”

According to the survey, most CHS seniors said the advice they would pass on to underclassmen is not to worry about what other people will think of their decisions, because putting one’s own wants is more important.

“Don’t limit your options; apply to as many schools as you want,” senior Billy Lentz, who applied to 17 schools, said.

Additionally, seniors said they would advise underclassmen to start applying in the summer or as early as possible to reduce the stress of deadlines.   

Like Triano and Feeney, about 39 percent of CHS seniors polled said they relieved the application anxiety by hanging out with friends. Fewer students reported using the school’s counseling facilities, with only 5 percent of students saying they would talk to a guidance counselor.

Alexandra Vazquez, a guidance counselor at CHS said there are multiple options for student support, including small group tutorials, junior conferencing and one-on-one follow-up meetings.

“Resources are always available through the counseling department, through the counseling website or directly with students' school counselor,” Vasquez said. “It is okay to feel stressed, but please know that you always have someone to help.”

Vasquez also recommended that students take times for themselves and seek help when needed.

“When feeling stressed, students should schedule time to do something for themselves that allows them to relax, such as exercise, meditation, watching a favorite TV show, or spending time with friends,” Vasquez said. “Self-care is super important. Lastly, talking to someone to share your concerns can help manage anxiety-your family, your friends, and, of course, your school counselor!”

Often times, students disregard deadlines, procrastinating applications for universities, interviews, or scholarships. For suggestions about healthy coping methods, Vazquez recommends staying organized and ahead of the deadlines.

“[If] they can try to get a head start with applications in the summer, hopefully they can mitigate stress when they return to school in September,” she said. “Students should utilize the junior packet we make available in their third year to navigate the process.”

While the application and college process can seem overwhelming, the reality is that time passes by faster than one might care to admit. Although it’s stressful to go through the process, the students questioned felt immense relief once the results of their hard work paid off.

Emma-Rose Bacall is a high school student participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Cranford.

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