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Coping With College Admission Anxiety

Navigating the college admission process can be an incredibly anxiety-inducing experience, especially in today's fast-paced and competitive academic landscape. In some ways, even more so for kids with ADHD or Anxiety. They also need to find an environment that supports their unique needs and provides the resources necessary to thrive. In today's ever-changing educational landscape, colleges are increasingly recognizing the importance of catering to diverse student populations, including those with ADHD and Anxiety. Adding the pressure to succeed, coupled with the uncertainty of the future, can create a significant amount of stress for students and their families. As a parent or student, it's essential to recognize these feelings are totally normal and find ways to address them in a healthy and proactive manner.

With the pandemic disrupting some traditional models of learning and testing, colleges have had to adapt their admission processes to accommodate these changes. Many have become more flexible in their approach, placing less emphasis on standardized test scores and instead focusing on a more holistic review of our kids' academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and personal experiences.

Flexibility in learning options is also more available now. Colleges that offer online courses or hybrid programs can accommodate students with ADHD who may struggle with traditional classroom settings. These alternative learning formats allow students to work at their own pace and provide the flexibility needed to manage symptoms such as impulsivity and distractibility. For instance, a student with ADHD may benefit from the ability to review lectures asynchronously and complete assignments on their own schedule.

While the application process is arduous and nerve-wracking after you push send, the waiting starts--will you be accepted, rejected, or waitlisted? Did you get into your top pick? Was any merit or scholarship offered? The stakes are high, the deadlines are strict, and you're being asked to make major decisions about your future. This limbo can be a difficult time, filled with self-doubt and what-ifs. The anticipation can make some students tense, irritable, and distracted. How could our kids not be stressed?! So how can our kids take a breath, manage, or work off some of this stress?

There are a number of things you can do to help mitigate the physical, mental, and emotional consequences of admissions anxiety. The first one is to go into this with realistic expectations. Colleges are competitive. Chances are, you won’t get accepted to every school you apply to. That's okay; you can’t eradicate the possibility of rejection, but you can anticipate it and come to terms with it in advance, which can help lessen the anxiety.

Another big hurdle is getting off that comparison train. Every college applicant is unique, and it’s nearly impossible to compare yourself to others meaningfully. Even if another student seems very similar to you, the reality is that you don't know the details of their application, nor what the admissions people are looking for. So how do we do that? How do we stop overthinking and agonizing over what's going to happen? See if instead of worrying, you can congratulate yourself --or as a parent, congratulate your teen on finishing the application process and setting themselves up for the future. If that fails, which it may, here are some other things to do or not to do.


Seriously, be straight with everyone. Tell your family and friends that you don’t want to talk about it. In most cases, the questions of family and friends are well-intentioned, but constant questions can get on your nerves. Keep well-intentioned family members away by assuring each and every one of them that she or he will be the first to know when you find out. For us parents, that means stop asking how they are feeling about it and please stop asking their friends about college, too. They are done for now, and it only makes them anxious.


Go hang with friends or play soccer or frisbee to get your mind off of it. Get outside if the weather is good. Fresh air, as well as sunshine, can improve your mood. Or grab a delicious coffee and embrace downtime by reading a book, watching a movie, or bingeing a show. Play with a pet, cuddle a puppy—connect with something or someone. Exercise can be a game changer, as it gets endorphins running through us.


It may feel like life right now is too serious to joke around, but that’s when we need it the most. Step away from your computer and endless email waiting and find something else to talk about than college. Find your sense of humor, even if it's sarcasm or dark humor. Laughter releases those awesome endorphins and helps your body relax. Go watch the Simpsons or a Friends episode--whatever you find hilarious. Laugh it out.


I know breathing and mindfulness can sound stupid, but it really does all start and end with the breath. Deep, slow, fill-your-lungs breaths calm you down. In the time it takes for 3 big breaths, your stress and cortisol levels plunge, physically causing a calmness and settling in your body. When all else fails, just Breathe.


Try to maintain a sense of perspective as you wait. While it's natural to want to attend a top-tier school, remember there are many different paths to success, and the most important thing is finding a college that is the right fit for you academically, socially, and personally. Keep in mind that rejection or acceptance from a particular school does not define your worth or potential for success.

You will find your place!

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