Worrying is not a strategy

In the 18 years I’ve been at Collegewise, I can’t recall an instance where a student (or that student’s parents) worried their way to the admissions decision they wanted.

I’ve seen them worry about whether or not they had enough community service hours and how their school’s class ranking system might hurt them.

I’ve seen them worry that they would have earned better grades had they not attended such a rigorous high school. The fact that their test scores don’t break 1400, or that they don’t have a personal connection who can leverage influence, or that their school doesn’t offer AP English for seniors—they worried and wondered how these outcomes would negatively affect them.

Missing the cut for AP Chem, choosing to take a summer job rather than attend summer school, comparing themselves and their achievements to those of their peers–they’ve all led to the application anxiety and worried expressions so many families bring with them to their meetings with counselors.

But in all that time, I’ve never seen that worry make a positive impact. It doesn’t improve their admissions chances. It doesn’t leave them feeling more confident or more in control. It doesn’t motivate them or improve their decision making—in fact, it just leaves them worse off. They’re wound up so tightly with worry that they can’t relax and see their way to focusing on the other parts of the process that they can control.

Treating your college process with the respect that it deserves will get you closer to where you want to go. But worrying? All that does is take your focus off the very things that can change your outcome. It also makes for a miserable ride along the way.

There’s no magic formula to getting into college. But the magic formula for improving any process is to ditch the parts that don’t work, or even worse, do harm. Worrying doesn’t work in college admissions. Worry actually does harm. And that’s why worrying just isn’t a good strategy.