Don't start stressing about college too early

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We’re used to high school seniors to feel stress about the college application process. It can seem overwhelming: the ACT, the SAT, extracurriculars, charity work, tests, assignments, presentations, projects … it’s all so real, not to mention important. But this pressure is no longer confined to graduating high school students; the stress is reaching into younger and younger grades. It’s even starting to affect kids in elementary school, far before it makes any sense to get anxious about college. This doesn’t help anybody. Stress can help motivate us, help us achieve our goals -- but it can also hurt us if we’re not careful.

Here are some tips:

If you’re young, you need to study -- but you need to enjoy life too!

School is super important, no doubt about it. You not only need to learn stuff, you need to learn how to learn. When you’re young, your brain is still growing, still developing, still figuring out how to take in knowledge. Too much stress is bad for a young brain. So while you’re thinking about all those heavy future decisions, try to relax. Do the best you can for your present life, but don’t get overwhelmed by the prospect of college. That time will come.

“What are you going to do with your life?”

It’s a question pretty much everyone hears when they’re growing up. But when you’re still young, especially before you’re in high school, chances are you’re just too young to be able to fully answer that question. And the truth is, the choices that lead you to college and beyond aren’t really mashed together into one giant decision -- it’s a whole bunch of smaller decisions that add up. In reality you have time to think about the choices you’re making, and there will usually be support in school and at home when it comes to figuring it all out.

Talk about your feelings

It may sound horrifying, but here’s the truth: the choices that lead to college are just the start! As you move through life there are a ton of other decisions you’ll have to make about a long list of things. It doesn’t stop when you fire off those college admissions! This means you need to learn how to cope with stress, and find healthy ways of handling responsibility. Central to this is not bottling up your feelings and hope it all goes away. Talk to your friends, your parents, your guidance counsellor, your one-to-one tutor -- chances are there are lots of people willing to listen to your problems. Nothing makes stress worse than feeling like you’re experiencing it all alone. Reminding yourself that you’re not alone is a great way of reducing the pressure.

It’s all a part of life

Look, it’s a rite of passage -- it’s something most people go through. Don’t ever let yourself feel like you’re the only one! It’s true that you’re theoretically in competition with all those people, but only in a general way. You should be able to talk to your friends without pressure or fear. Just be yourself, let them be themselves. You’re all on the same team!

To sum up, it’s true that the prospect of applying for college or university can be scary, but it’s wrong to spend years stressing about it. Not only is too much stress bad for you, but you’ve got a whole lifetime of big decisions ahead of you. The sooner you learn how to be calm and practical about these things, the better off you’ll be!

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