5 Secrets to Make College Applications Less Stressful

Rubin Caco

For many ambitious students and their families, gaining acceptance into a top national school is the ultimate goal. However, the road to Ivy League admissions can often feel like a daunting journey filled with stress and uncertainty. But college applications don't need to be a negative experience. With the right tools and guidance, college admissions can be a natural process that fits in seamlessly with the rest of one's day-to-day life. Here are five secrets parents and students can act on right now to make college applications less stressful. 

1. Start Planning Early

Preparation is the key to success in many fields, and this is no more true than in education. For college applications especially, the earlier students start, the easier the process will be in the long run. Students shouldn't wait until their junior year to start planning for college. At InGenius Prep, our students who began planning as early as the 9th grade were 27% more likely to get an offer of acceptance from their reach schools! 

Planning early will not only help students build their academic profiles, but engaging more in these activities can help students find what they are passionate about. Discovering their passions and interests is key to giving students confidence throughout their academic journey and the college application process.

Essays, test scores, and extracurriculars should be worked on throughout a student's high school career. Don't leave application materials until the last minute. To learn more about application timelines, see our blog, "2022-23 College Application Timeline."

2. Authenticity Over Perfectionism

When looking at the most competitive schools, it's easy to fall into the mindset that students must be perfect—at the top of their class and flawless in their applications. While good grades and a robust application are certainly necessary, applicants must also understand that the admissions officers at the top schools are very particular about who they admit for the upcoming class. They are not just looking for the perfect students; they are looking for students who are perfect for their schools. 

This is why a student’s application persona is such a vital part of their application. Having perfect scores alone will not be enough to get into the most selective schools. Admissions officers are interested in candidates who would be a good personality fit and display strong character—leadership, dedication, and passion. 

Students can achieve this through their activities and interests. Whether it be volunteer work, sports, or academic competitions, each activity carries traits that students can leverage in their application. And with the proper guidance and strategy, students can codify these activities, turning interests or hobbies into academic qualities that admissions officers will value. 

To learn more about application personas, read our blog post, "Application Personas: How Top Colleges Find the Best Students."

3. Create a Balanced School List

Creating a balanced school list can be the difference between receiving multiple gracious offers of acceptance and receiving no offers at all. 

When researching schools, students should select those that fall into one of three categories: safety schools, target schools, and reach schools. Safety schools are where students are reasonably sure they will get accepted. Choosing these schools is to ensure that students will at least have a few offers of acceptance if all else fails. The target schools are those in which the student's academic and extracurricular credentials fall well within that school's threshold for applicants. Students should focus most of their application efforts on these schools. Reach schools are those that are extremely competitive (such as all Ivy League schools), but that students should also strive to "reach for" regardless. Having reach schools as an option is a good way for students to push their limits and work to achieve greater heights. 

School lists often contain around ten schools, and researching for a balanced list is one of the most critical parts of a student's application process. It involves knowing what programs students want to dedicate their studies to, knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, and working to compensate for those with a tailored application that will appeal to the standards of each individual school. 

To learn more about building your own school list, see our post, "3 Powerful Strategies to Finding the Right University."

4. Visiting Campuses & Doing Your Research

Often, a large part of the stress in the application process comes from a lack of information. Visiting the campuses of the schools you are interested in not only demystifies the process but is also a great way to connect with people at those schools and gain insight into what the admissions offices may be looking for in their applicants. 

Many schools have resources for new students and applicants, and most admissions offices  will happily answer any of your questions. In the same vein, students can also opt to reach out to professors, academic fellows, and administrators of those schools through phone or email and gain valuable insights that way. 

In addition to utilizing online resources and reaching out to faculty, students should also conduct thorough research on the school's history, programs, and campus culture. Getting more familiar with a school helps when writing your essays or discussing your academic interests in your personal statement, which are all important factors in crafting a compelling application. Student’s who show interest in a school and are familiar with the history and culture will stand out in the minds of admissions officers. Sometimes, a small factor like that can be the difference between getting accepted or denied. 

Overall, forging these connections, gaining more insight, and having a deeper understanding of a school will give you confidence in the admissions process and help inform your strategy when creating your college admissions application. And at these hyper-selective institutions, every advantage counts. 

5. Work With College Admissions Experts

Many families try to go through the college application process alone, and this lack of familiarity can lead to a great deal of confusion, anxiety, and stress, as well as hurting a student’s overall chances of college acceptance. To alleviate this, families should consider working with a college admissions consultant to help guide them through their applications. 

Consultants, often those who have previously worked in higher education, possess invaluable insider knowledge about the admissions process. They understand what colleges look for in applicants and can advise on how to present oneself in their applications. With the support of a consultant, families can feel more confident and less stressed throughout the application journey knowing that an expert is helping them cover all their bases. From creating a strategic timeline to managing deadlines and organizing application materials, consultants provide structure and guidance that alleviate anxiety and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Ultimately, working with a college admissions consultant aims to maximize the likelihood of securing admission to a top national college. At InGenius Prep, our team of consultants is composed of Graduate Coaches and Former Admissions Officers from these top national schools—ready to make your student the ideal Ivy League candidate. Our industry insight and expert guidance will ensure that students have the absolute best chance at getting accepted into their dream schools. 

Join the 97% of our students who have gotten accepted into one or more of their target or reach schools. To learn more about our programs and services and how our experts can help your student get into their dream school, schedule a free consultation call with one of our advisors to learn more about our programs and students' results!

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