How to Help Teens Cope with College Application Stress

Date Posted

July 31, 2023


Nina Kremer

College Application Stress Mom and Daughter Brainstorming

The summer and fall of a teen’s senior year of high school can be an incredibly stressful time. Preparing to submit a college application takes a lot of effort and can feel like a never-ending process. Not only do colleges expect a lot from these students, the pressure of getting into a “good” school and the looming transition from childhood to adulthood – along with the responsibilities that come with it – can be very overwhelming. This is an essential time for parents to support their teen and do what they can to ease the pressure. Here are four ways that parents can help teens cope with the stress of the college application process. 

#1: Relieve them of some work to reduce college application stress. 

On top of completing their college applications, the to-do list of a high school senior is stacked with homework assignments and extracurricular commitments. Help your teen check off some boxes. Ask them about what they are looking for in a college, and then do some research into schools that might be a good fit. Talk through some potential topics for their college essay to help them think about how they want to use those few hundred words to sum up their experience. Help them brainstorm ideas of events, people, or interests that have shaped their identity, and then they can choose the option that seems best for them. 

#2: Help them stay grounded.

Because colleges are evaluating students by their grades and test scores, students can begin to judge themselves by those standards as well. Attaching their self-worth to a number can be harmful to a teen’s mental health, and can lead to low self-esteem and depression. Parents, help your teen stay grounded by reminding them that their grades don’t define them and that they will end up going to the best school for them. This will help them put their worries into perspective and understand that a low SAT score is not the end of the world. 

#3: Prioritize their mental health.

College Application Stress Father and Son Playing BasketballDuring this stressful time, it is important for parents to check in with their teens frequently and pay attention to signs of depression. Reinforce that their mental health is more important than their grades. Encourage them to make time for self-care in their busy schedule in order to prevent burnout. Some self-care activities that teens may enjoy include reading a book for fun, watching a movie, going for a walk, or engaging in a creative hobby like computer coding or cooking. Practicing mindfulness meditation is also a great way for teens to center themselves and relieve stress. Offer to participate in a mindfulness exercise with them! Additionally, parents can help boost their teen’s mental wellness by encouraging them to develop healthy habits such as eating and sleeping well, and exercising regularly. Use the acronym  “SEEM” (Sleeping, eating, exercising, and mindfulness) to remember these wellness strategies.

#4: Reflect on your own influence on college application stress.

A teen’s college application stress can also stem from wanting to make their family proud by getting into a particular school. Make sure to let your teen know that you are there to support them and want them to pick a school that supports their goals. Encourage them to focus on going to a school that they like, not on the opinions of others. Most importantly, make sure that you are not putting your own aspirations for them above their needs.

Following these four guidelines will help you provide your teen some much-needed support during their college application process. By relieving them of some work, helping them stay grounded, prioritizing their mental health, and reflecting on your influence on them, you can make your teen’s college application process much less stressful. 

Nina Kremer is an FFDA intern and a Senior at Waltham High School. She is a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Talon Tribune, and Editor in Chief of the literary magazine, The Abstract. She is passionate about writing and hopes to major in journalism in college. In her free time Nina enjoys reading and playing guitar.