by Ashley McCarrick

You are not alone. I see it in my office each and every year as deadlines approach like roaring freight trains. The stress is palpable and seems to emanate from every pore of your high-school being. The faces may be different but the stories are always the same.

You are terrified of failing and afraid that you won’t go to college.

Many students are so used to success that the idea of not getting into their dream school is paralyzing. You won’t get in anywhere if you don’t finish the applications, though. You have to believe that you will end up at the college you are supposed to attend. Being successful is about more than where you go to college, anyway.

There is also the unrealistic fear that you will not be accepted into ANY college. For most students, especially those who have planned wisely and applied to a variety of schools, this is not the case. With thousands of four-year and community colleges across the country, there is a place for you. You just have to find out where that place is and how to get there.

You don’t know where to start.

Ask your mom for a kitchen timer. Set it for forty minutes. Put your phone away and get away from social media. Now do something, ANYTHING, application-related. Brainstorm for your essays and start a rough draft. Set up an account for the Common Application and fill out Part 1. When the timer beeps, stop. Repeat this the next day and the next. Breaking the application into small chunks makes it much more manageable and keeps your sanity intact.

You are overestimating your ability.

No, you can’t write your essays the night before the deadline and expect them to be quality pieces of work. It just isn’t reasonable to expect your essays to be thoughtful, well-written, and grammatically correct if you are feeling rushed to complete them. Even the best writers go through at least 2-3 revisions to get a top-notch essay.

You are afraid to write honest essays.

It is hard to write honestly about yourself, especially if you are trying to brag about your best qualities without seeming” braggy.” The key is to write from your heart. What are your dreams? What are your passions? What makes you different from the next application he or she will read? Brainstorm what you want people to know about you after reading your essays, then think of stories that illustrate those qualities.

You love to procrastinate.

I speak from experience on this one, as I am a lifelong procrastinator. It is the one habit I wish I could have broken when I was younger. Those deadlines seem far away and you feel like you have time to sit and watch Netflix all day long. The reality is that while you are lounging around, the students you are competing with for acceptance letters are busily working away. Their essays will be polished, their recommendation letters will be turned in, and they might be taking your spot at your dream college.

Maybe you are almost finished with your applications, but just waiting for a few last-minute items. Make it your goal to have everything completed by Thanksgiving. You will go into the holiday with a peaceful and relaxed mind and trust me, you will be thankful that the application process is over.

Wherever you are in the college admissions process, get moving! Press “Submit” and start dreaming about life after high school. It is going to be awesome, I promise.

Ashley McCarrick is an Executive Director at KD College Prep. She has been serving KD students since 2007 and enjoys helping teenagers discover their dreams. In her free time, Ashley delights in spending time with her daughter, Lilley, and volunteering with various local organizations. You may contact her at a.mccarrick@kdcollegeprep.com.