In this article, admissions expert Bailee Peralto shares tips on maintaining self-care during junior year, especially throughout the college application process. For more guidance on the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

How can I possibly do it all? A Guide to Taking Care of School, College Apps, and Yourself… All at the Same Time

Feeling the beginnings of a headache during the last class period of the day junior year, I put my head down on my desk for a minute to regain my composure. A minute later, I lifted my head to the sound of the Dean of Students’ voice over the loudspeaker: “I hope you all have a wonderful day,” he announced. Everyone around me grabbed their bags to leave. I looked around in shock. The day had ended, and I had missed it.

I’d missed it because I’d fallen asleep in class.

I could hardly believe it. It was me, the girl who was at the top of her class, the girl with a resume filled with extracurricular activities and awards, the girl who was known for being able to handle it all. I had fallen asleep for the entire class period. In front of everyone. And, to make matters worse, I didn’t feel any more rested than I did before my impromptu siesta. In fact, I felt guilty that I couldn’t make it through the entire day without needing a break.

Juggling Junior Year

As a junior, you might feel like you have to do it all. Between SAT and ACT test prep, extracurricular activities, advanced courses, and college applications, it can sometimes feel like you can’t catch a breath. You could feel anxious or worried, scared about the future, or, in my case, just plain exhausted. These are just a few signs that you’re feeling overwhelmed, which might mean it’s time to take a look at your schedule—and yourself—to see how you can help yourself feel better.

self care during the college application process;; stressed student sitting at a computer
Photographer: Josefa nDiaz | Source: Unsplash

Maybe you already knew that you’re feeling overwhelmed, but you don’t know how to address it while continuing to prove that you’re a strong candidate for colleges. Maybe you didn’t realize you’re overwhelmed until reading this article, and you’re scared that means you don’t have what it takes to get into your dream school.

Both of those feelings, and any others, are completely normal. But there are ways to take care of yourself and still build a strong candidate profile. It’s just a matter of taking some time to reflect and find your balance. Below are a few tips and tricks for decreasing stress and taking care of yourself, all while juggling junior year’s many demands.

Declutter Your Brain

When meetings, test dates, and deadlines start to stack up, your mind might get cluttered trying to remember what you need to do and when. This can overwhelm you as you struggle to keep track while working to get everything done. An easy way to clear out an overwhelmed brain is to organize the tasks right in front of you.

Here are a few examples of how you can help yourself keep track:

  1. Keep a journal specifically dedicated to writing down assignments, deadlines, and things you need to do. Check the journal every morning and every night to make sure you’re on track for the day. If you are, great! If you’re not, and the remaining tasks aren’t urgent, move them to the next day.
  2. Keep a calendar. Log your class schedule, input deadlines, and set reminders for important dates. Apps like Google Calendar and Apple Calendar are available both on your phone and on your computer, so there are plenty of ways to hold yourself accountable no matter where you are.

By putting things down on paper (or online), you can declutter your brain. Instead of having to keep track of deadlines yourself, just check your journal or calendar—it frees up your mind and gives you more space to think about other things, like taking things off of your plate instead of trying to recall what you put on it.

Schedule Time Off

If you’re anything like me—high-achieving, dedicated to school and extracurriculars, hoping to go to your dream school—you might feel guilty for taking time off from all of your commitments. However, it is just as important to take breaks as it is to be productive.

But how can you take a break in the middle of the school year, with assignments and test dates stacking up? How do you say ‘no’ to another weekend-long volunteer opportunity or competition, especially when they could boost your resume? The answer takes a lot of effort, but it can pay off in the end: organize your schedule around a predetermined time for rest.

I do my best to have a free day at least every two weeks, but if that doesn’t feel feasible to you, try finding a spot every three weeks, or even every month. The key is to choose a weekend (or a day, or a couple of hours) to do something that is unrelated to your regular activities.

Organize your commitments—such as homework, events, and other tasks—so that they are not scheduled during the time that you have set aside, and instead spend that time watching movies, going on an adventure, or doing something else that you love.

The point is to forget about your commitments for a little while and give your brain a break, knowing that you’ll come back to them and get everything done later. Doing so can help your mind to reset and recharge, which ensures that you can keep up with your busy schedule without burning out.

Prioritize What You Love

When it comes down to it, feeling overwhelmed constantly—even despite taking breaks—could mean you have too much on your plate. You might have to take a look at your commitments and decide to prioritize some things over others. If you do this, it’s important to choose activities that are important to you but will still give breadth to your college applications.

For example, do you need to be the President of both Key Club and Model United Nations, or can you choose one? Do you have to swim and play volleyball, or can you commit to one over the other? Do you have to volunteer for both of those nonprofits, or does one feel more meaningful to you?

It’s important to have a variety of extracurricular activities on your college applications, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Prioritize what’s important to you by consistently committing time, effort, and loyalty to specific activities, rather than spending less time on a greater number of activities. This will allow you to develop a strong candidate profile while also taking care of yourself.

You Are More Than Your Successes

Junior year is a struggle, especially when you’re striving for your dream college. But reaching for your loftiest goals doesn’t mean you should lose sight of taking care of yourself. Taking the time to listen to yourself and managing your stress can ensure that you have a schedule that is sustainable, reducing your chances of feeling even more overwhelmed down the line.

Succeeding during your junior year, senior year, and throughout college can be important to you. But taking care of yourself first is the biggest and most important step to being successful going forward. You are more than your successes at school, in your extracurricular activities, and in the college application process: you are a person first. It took me falling asleep in class to realize that I needed to focus on me first, a lesson that is hard to learn but has made me all the more successful in the long-run.

This informational essay on self-care was written by Bailee Peralto, Brown University ‘21. If you want to get help with your college applications from Bailee or other Admissions Experts, click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.