The shortest month of the year is quickly drawing to a close, which means March—and the hotly anticipated college admissions results that come along with it—are just around the corner. For students and their families, this time is at once exciting and anxiety-producing. On the one hand, years of hard work are about to pay off in the form of offers from places of higher learning around the country and world. At the same time, the anticipatory limbo can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. So how can applicants and their loved ones cope, knowing that D-Day (or week, or month) is just around the corner?

  1. Pursue distractions. Students are well-advised to remember the myriad hobbies and interests that enriched their lives outside of the classroom throughout these past four years. For example, if your child serves as the captain of a sports team, encourage them to reinvest in their teammates by hosting a squad bonding night or preparing encouraging posters to display at an upcoming match. Now that the stress of maintaining perfect grades and preparing for standardized tests is over, reading for pleasure is also a great option, as many busy, high-achieving students have not had the bandwidth to do this in years. Whatever it is, the idea is to focus anxious energy in a productive and enjoyable way.
  2. Gain some perspective. While fraught students may not always want to hear it, there’s a lot to be said for the power of positivity and gratitude, particularly in warding off stress over events that are outside of one’s control. Applicants might consider journaling, writing down one or two things at the beginning or end of each day that they are thankful for. Parents can do their part by encouraging family members to discuss the good things in their lives during meal times or other moments throughout the day. Generally speaking, if you are applying to elite schools in the United States, you have a lot to be grateful for. It’s also worth noting that not everyone has the opportunity to pursue higher education, and students in America are particularly fortunate to have a wealth of excellent options.
  3. Avoid catastrophizing and other unhelpful ways of thinking. It’s tempting for applicants to get caught in a spiral of negative thinking: What if I’m not admitted to my school of choice, and the entire rest of my life suffers as a result? The good thing about catastrophizing is that it’s rarely grounded in logic, meaning that it’s easy to poke holes in these kinds of assumptions and projections. If you’re the parent of a child prone to such anxiety-induced speculation, be sure to compassionately point out the faulty reasoning that leads to these conclusions. Luckily, there are many ways to lead a successful and fulfilling life, and none of them mandate that a person attend X or Y school.

While it might feel like the passing of time has slowed to an unbearable pace, students and their parents will get answers soon—but the aforementioned tips can help ease some of the anxiety that inevitably accompanies this unique and fleeting period.

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