How to Deal with Stress When Applying for the Ivies

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Two students attending an online class.

How to Deal with Stress When Applying for the Ivies

Many students don’t know how to deal with stress when applying for a school. Unfortunately, it’s not something that’s typically covered in high school or mentioned by colleges. Even though application and college admissions anxiety and stress are a real thing that many people experience, all of the focus seems to remain on requirements, deadlines, and maybe a few helpful tips here and there. But what about dealing with Ivy League stress. After all, these are some of the most competitive schools in the world with the lowest acceptance rates.

Young woman talking to a a Psychologist in a room.

It’s only natural that students applying to these schools experience some uncertainty, trepidation, and stress. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not something that should be addressed. At Admission Sight, we believe in taking a comprehensive and holistic approach to the college admissions process, especially when it comes to Ivy League schools. That includes helping you cope when you’re too worried about college admissions to performing successfully. Here, we’ve outlined some helpful tips you can use to manage the stress involved when applying to an Ivy League school.

10 tips for managing college application stress for the Ivy Leagues

As we mentioned before, having a little bit of stress when applying for the Ivies isn’t unusual. There’s a lot of competition involved and you’re working hard; it’s natural to worry during the process. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help manage this anxiety to better prepare yourself. Take a look at some of these tips, and be sure to seek professional help if the stress ends up becoming too much.

1. Narrow down your choices.

If you’re dead-set on attending an Ivy League school but aren’t sure which university, you might be tempted to send out applications to all eight. After all, casting a wider net increases your chances of getting accepted into one of these esteemed universities…right? Well, not quite. While it makes sense in theory, this strategy plays out very differently in practice. And often with a negative outcome.

Applying to an Ivy League university requires months of preparation, dedication, diligence, and uninterrupted attention. If you stretch your limited time and energy among several different applications, you’re decreasing the quality of each application and drastically increasing your anxiety levels. Instead of helping you gain a competitive edge, this strategy can actually backfire. As a result, you should narrow down your choices to increase the amount of time you can dedicate to each application.

2. Determine your action plan.

In addition to narrowing down the list of universities to which you’ll apply, you should also clarify your action plan. Are you going to apply for Early Decision or within the standard time frame? If you do decide to go for Early Decision, make sure you outline a plan for all the possibilities: deferral, rejection, or acceptance. Since Ivy League universities often have strict deadlines when it comes to turning in applications along with all necessary documentation, you don’t want to leave a decision for the last minute.

Female student writing on a sofa.

When you determine and document your plan, you have a clearly defined course of action. You’ll know what is required when it is due, and what will be required in order to collect the necessary documents. You won’t have to continue second-guessing your efforts which will only lead to more stress and anxiety. Keep in mind that having an action plan takes all possibilities into account. Just in case things don’t pan out as you had expected, you want to have a contingency plan in place to help make the uncertainty less scary.

3. Manage your expectations.

Even after acknowledging that applying to Ivy League universities is a highly competitive process, it’s still easy to let your mind develop unrealistic expectations. Even though you should still put forth your best effort and strive to send in the best application possible, there’s always a chance that you might not get accepted into the first university of your choice…or even the second. Managing your expectations is essential for limiting stress and anxiety.

Rejections and deferrals come with the territory. Even having the desire and dedication to send an application to one of the most esteemed and prestigious universities in the world is an accomplishment in and of itself. While you can’t avoid rejection altogether, you can prepare yourself for the possibility. Instead of losing sleep worrying about what might happen, you are able to focus your energy and efforts on what you can control. However, this requires an acceptance of all possibilities.

4. Write a to-do list.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all of the odds and ends that are required in the Ivy League application process. From general applications and supplemental essays to standardized test scores and high-school transcripts, it’s tough to keep track of all these moving parts. Instead of allowing yourself to get lost in the whirlwind of tasks, you should maintain a detailed to-do list that clearly identifies what you need to do and when it needs to be done.

Female student writing in front of her laptop

Do you need to request a document from your high school? Or do you need to reach out to former teachers for letters of recommendation? Have you double-checked the application deadline yet? And what about the missing document you’re still waiting on? That’s a lot to keep track of! Since stress often sets in when we feel out of control, a to-do list is a great way to manage not only your tasks but your anxiety as well. You can use a calendar, notebook, or even a dedicated app on your phone. Regardless, make sure you assign deadlines to each task and check each off as you complete them.

5. Reach out for help.

If you’re ever feeling crushed under the weight of to-dos, requirements, and tasks associated with an Ivy League application process, you don’t have to feel alone. Look around at your family members, friends, and teachers. There’s a good chance many are willing to extend a helping hand in the process. Even a seemingly small gesture can end up saving you valuable time while also helping to calm your stress levels.

Female student using a laptop while studying on her desk.

Whether you’ve already quadruple-checked your application and want a parent to make a final check, you need help from your college counselor brainstorming some potential candidates for your letters of recommendation, or you just need to blow off some steam by chatting with a friend, don’t be afraid to ask. You might be surprised just how willing others are to help you while applying to an Ivy League university. It’s an exciting process that others are often proud to be apart of.

6. Take (many) breaks.

Applying to an Ivy League university is an involved, intense, and long process. However, you can greatly reduce the stress associated with this process if you take regular breaks. These consistent respites give you time to decompress, clear your mind, and forget about supplemental essays, GPAs, and all that other stuff for a while. Even if it’s just a series of five-minute breaks throughout the day, it’s better than working straight through without giving your mind and body a breather.

Three students lounging in their bedroom.

During this time, you can take a power nap, go for a walk outside, talk with a friend, play some video games, watch some TV, do a quick workout, read a book, or whatever your heart desires. Make sure that the activity you choose is something that you can look forward to and enjoy. There’s no reason to fill your breaks from application-related tasks with something that also causes you stress. When you return from these breaks, you’ll feel re-energized, refreshed, and prepared to tackle the task at hand with renewed energy.

7. Take care of yourself.

When you’re preparing to apply to an Ivy League university, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision. With such a challenging and important goal on the horizon, you become so focused that everything in your periphery becomes a second thought. While this is a natural reaction, having a one-track mind can end up having negative effects. When you don’t attend to the basics of caring for yourself, your stress levels are going to slowly creep up on you without much of a warning.

For example, If you try stealing some hours from the night in order to get ahead on your application, you’ll mess up your sleeping patterns. In the same way, if you’ve been sticking to junk food that’s quick and easy to eat, you won’t have the energy or mental clarity to work diligently. The same goes for drinking enough water and getting enough physical exercise. Without these basics to keep yourself healthy, well-rested, and well-fed, your performance will slip. On the other hand, if you stay on top of these essentials, you might just be able to reduce those stress levels.

8. Don’t worry about what others are doing.

With tens of thousands of applications sent to Ivy League schools each year, you might know a classmate or even a good friend who’s in the same boat as you. While it’s nice to know somebody going through a similar experience, this can also be a source of stress as your mind begins to worry about what they’re doing. Are they putting more time and energy into their application than I? Do they have higher test scores? Is my GPA as good as theirs? What kind of extracurriculars did they have?

It’s easy to get sucked into this cycle of self-doubt, questioning, and worrying. However, you have to realize that every applicant is unique. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Don’t stress about what other people are doing. Instead, focus on what you can control. Work in a way that’s suitable for you, set realistic goals given your abilities, and don’t waste valuable energy and time on comparing your efforts to those of others. No amount of worry about other people will help you get into an Ivy League school. Only your efforts and performance can do that.

9. Remember that status isn’t the only thing that matters.

When applying to an Ivy League school, it’s common for applicants to get caught up in the hype. Instead of focusing on the specifics of what makes a school worthwhile, some students get lost in aspects that don’t necessarily matter. It’s true that Ivy League universities offer students a wealth of academic and professional opportunities that are relatively unmatched when it comes to other colleges, but you shouldn’t get distracted by these impressive features.

Just because a university has the most advanced equipment, the largest grant donations, the most-published professors, and the longest history, that doesn’t necessarily mean the college will be a right fit for you. Every Ivy League college is unique in its own way while still providing top-tier education to its students. Instead of getting distracted by the factors that don’t matter, you need to prioritize choosing a university that matches your strengths and academic goals. By focusing on what really matters, you don’t have to stress about making it into the most famous Ivy League universities to impress other people.

10. Maintain big-picture thinking.

When applying for the Ivies, it’s easy to get caught up in the short-term. Instead of thinking about your overall academic, career, and personal goals, you’re hyper-focused on one activity at a time. Whether that’s getting an awesome letter of recommendation, obtaining necessary transcripts from your high school, or nailing your supplemental essays. The immediate goal is to get into the Ivy League school of your dreams and not much is able to distract you from that objective. While this focus is of great benefit when managing your time wisely, there is a potential downside to putting blinders on.

It’s vital to balance this short-term vision with a larger overall plan. For example, your immediate goal might be to get accepted to Harvard University this year while your larger goal is to receive an Ivy League education. If you only focus on the former and end up not getting accepted the first time around, you might feel too overworked and stressed to try again. However, if you keep in mind your long-term goal of getting an Ivy League degree, you’ll start looking for other possibilities. Whether that’s applying to Ivies with higher acceptance rates or attending a state university for a year or so before transferring to a Princeton or a Yale.

Pro tip: You don’t have to manage your Ivy League college admissions anxiety alone

Applying for the Ivy League is a daunting undertaking, there’s no doubt about it. But, nobody said you had to do it alone. What if we told you there was someone with a deep understanding of the college admissions process that had helped students just like you get accepted into their dream Ivy League university? You’d probably ask who it is and how you can receive similar help! Perfect. Admission Sight is that specialist. We help high school students prepare for applying to the Ivies. With a stellar application and pristine qualifications, your chances of getting admitted are astronomically higher than having a mediocre application and low grades.

We offer a variety of personalized services to help students and parents better understand and cope with the rigorous Ivy League admissions process. If you want to get started early, we offer pre-high school consultation to help you determine the best course of action for these four critical years. If you’re not sure which extracurriculars or courses to take, we offer academic guidance so you have the experience to turn the heads of college admissions officers. If you’re stuck on application essays, we offer great editing services to make sure everything is pristine. Our offerings cover nearly every aspect of college admissions.

Relax. You got this.

Take a deep breath. We get it. Applying for the Ivies is stressful. But we’ve worked with hundreds of students who applied to some of the most competitive universities in the entire world, and you know what? They did amazing. Everything turned out just fine. And the worrying, stress, and anxiety involved probably didn’t help at all. It’s all about understanding what’s required of you, finding the best resources to help, and executing. Don’t worry, you’ve got this! And we’ve got your back. Feel free to contact Admission Sight to learn exactly what services we offer, how you could benefit, and why we’ve had such an impressive success rate.


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