College is supposed to be one of the most exciting times of your life. However, for many students, the college admissions process causes a huge amount of stress and unhappiness. But by learning to focus inward and practicing the techniques of mindfulness, you can take control of how you’re feeling and actually start to enjoy the college admissions journey.

 Focus on the opportunity, not the obstacles.

Here’s the truth: there are a bunch of well-qualified students your age who are all fighting to get into the same schools you want to get into. And not all of you can go. That’s simple math.  Instead of focusing on where you might NOT get in, focus what lies ahead for the places you DO get in. This is the first time you get to take the reins of your life. This is what freedom feels like. And you should enjoy that.

Let go of the idea of “dream schools” because that’s just inviting unneeded pressure. Think of your idea of a “perfect school” as a sock, not a shoe. A sock can fit on lots of schools. It’s stretchy.

Remember that the key to your college admissions journey is YOU. You’re the one who’ll be going to school there, living there, and putting in the hours, no one else.

 Honesty is everything.

One of the biggest keys to mindfulness is being honest with yourself. If you feel the need to lie on your college application, either by inflating your extracurriculars, misrepresenting your background (yes, this really does happen), or even fabricating why you want to go to that school, then it’s time to take a step back and ask why you’re not being honest.

My opinion is that you shouldn’t go to a school that the real you can’t get into. After all, do you really want to spend your entire college experience pretending to be someone else? Four years is a long time to keep up that charade. There’s also this feeling of relief that will wash over you once you decide to just be you. I’m not saying all your stress will be gone, but accepting what you can and can’t do about your admissions journey is a huge step forward.

Just breathe.

No matter how much mindfulness you attain, there will of course be some stress along the way. And some stress can be good.

But, when you do feel overwhelmed, whether it’s by test prep, personal essays, or even deciding where to go, make sure to take time to drop everything and relax a bit. I always tell students to remember to breathe and while that may sound simple, I promise it helps. Just give it a try.

Take time to exercise or go for a long walk. Read a book that you actually want to read, not one that counts for a credit. Let yourself get bored for a bit. Maybe even play some video games to unwind.

Meditation helps too. Short, five to ten-minute meditations can open up whole new pockets of your brain that you didn’t even know were there.

Get Thankful.

Many students find the college admissions process to be extremely negative. It can start to feel that it’s all about what everyone else has and what you don’t.

Make it a point to list out five things you’re thankful for every day. Studies actually show that if you focus on gratitude, you’ll start to feel happier. It’s just how our brains work. And they don’t have to be big, sweeping declarations. Simple stuff like air conditioning on a sweltering summer day or the texture of peanut butter on your tongue are totally valid.

Focus on what you do have and not what you don’t. Self-doubt gets you nowhere. You’re in control of your thoughts a lot more than you think.

Do nice stuff for others. Sit outside. Sing. Dance. Even if you feel silly doing so.

It’s all about finding balance.

Live in the now.

Look, being a teenager sucks sometimes. Everyone knows that. But it’s also this narrow, little window in our lives that we can literally never get back to again. So, don’t spend your remaining teen years stressing about adulthood. Trust me when I tell you there will be AMPLE time for that later.

Live in the now. Take life in. Be a teenager, as lame as that sounds.

And when your feelings and doubts start to get the better of you, take a step back and remember RAIN, a way of understanding that feelings are thoughts and thoughts are fleeting.

RAIN is all about:

Recognizing your feeling.

Accepting that feeling instead of pushing it away.

Investigating why you feel that way.

Naturalize your awareness of the feeling but don’t identify with it. It’s a feeling. It’s not you.


Talk to someone.

 When things really start feeling too much, talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Find a person you’re comfortable sharing your thoughts and fears with. Simply venting can take a huge weight off your shoulders. Keeping everything inside definitely doesn’t help anything. Some studies say that happier people are actually the ones who recognize their unhappiness. They don’t sweep it under the rug. They confront it and ask why.