The predictable fear before submission

One of the most predictable points of anxiety during the journey to college is the time right before a student submits their application(s).

There’s a finality to that impending submission. No more revising. No more hand-wringing. No more avoiding the ensuing evaluation. Once that application leaves, it’s literally and figuratively out of your hands, with nothing left to do but wait for a decision.

This fear causes students to second-guess their decisions, like their choice of essay topic or the way they’ve presented their activities. Even worse is the hand-wringing over decisions you can no longer change. Maybe you should have taken the SAT again or chosen a different summer activity or spent more time with your chemistry tutor to get that grade up? Left unchecked, all of this doubt leads some students to hold their applications hostage, too afraid to hit the “Submit” button until the deadline leaves them no other choice.

This is normal behavior. Every one of us has experienced the worry that accompanies doing something new, something that might not work, something with risk and exposure and consequences. But that still doesn’t make the fear useful. It’s not pushing us to make better decisions. It’s not improving the final product. And it’s not changing the eventual outcome for the better.

So if the anxiety isn’t useful, what can you do about it? You can anticipate it.

Expect that you’ll worry right before you submit. Give that feeling a name, like “pre-submission panic.” And when it arrives, you’ll know exactly what it is. You won’t have to interpret it and wonder if those worries are your mind’s way of telling you that you should be doing something different or better. It’s just the physical response that comes with doing something important and potentially life-changing.

The best part is that the acute fear goes away days or even hours after you submit. There will be a sense of overwhelming relief knowing that the work is complete and you’ve done your best. Don’t rush that relief. Give applications the time and attention they deserve. But when you’ve checked and proofed and rechecked again, remind yourself that you’ve worked hard and earned the relief that’s about to ensue. Then hit “Submit.”

The fear is a lot less powerful when you predict and expect it.