In my previous post, I wrote about “The First Rule of Applying to College”: getting enough sleep. This rule puts a premium on finding the balance between pursuing admission to desirable colleges and maintaining one’s mental and physical health.

Pushing oneself to extremes where sleep, well-being, and mental or physical health are jeopardized is not worth the cost of an admission letter from any college.

This might mean a student will decide to take fewer AP classes in the name of balance. Or it may be that their summer plans include more time for relaxation, instead of cramming in extra volunteer hours. It may also mean that a student chooses to stop studying for the SAT earlier in the evening to get a good night’s sleep. Or they may opt to get to bed at a reasonable time after a long school day and a late football practice instead of staying up till 3 AM completing homework.

I mention all of the possible choices students might make (if following the first rule of applying to college) because in a significant way these types of choices intersect. In some cases, they may even collide with the second rule of applying to college: every choice has a consequence.

Every Choice Has a Consequence

Carried out correctly, the process of applying to college represents a multiyear set of choices. Each choice along the way (colleges to put on your list; classes to take in high school; SAT versus ACT; choosing essay topics; applying early or regular decision, etc.) sets the student on a unique path that will shape the outcome of this journey, in sometimes predictable and other times unpredictable ways.

For instance, if a student chooses to take a less rigorous course load in high school, because this is the right level of academic challenge for them, then more selective colleges and universities may not accept them. Or if a student chooses to balance their weekly schedule to include more sleep or time to engage in healthy exercise, while also studying and completing assigned homework, it may mean that a peer at the same high school has an extracurricular profile loaded with more leadership and other accolades.

Thus, the consequence may be that the student who has chosen to take a less hectic extracurricular path is less likely for admission to a highly selective university.

The Choice Is Yours

I am not naïve; I understand that some who read this post will come to different conclusions.

Some will double down on their academic rigor and forgo sleep or free time to pursue more extracurriculars. And they will spend more time, energy, and perhaps money, to study for a few more points on the SAT or ACT—all in the name of increasing their chance of admission to a prestigious college or university.

However, that is not the conclusion to which I hope students and families arrive.

It’s not a mistake that the first rule of applying to college is paying attention to mental and physical well-being. I hope students and families use this as a lens through which to view all their choices, and the potential consequences of those choices, while they make the journey through the college application process.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I will share my third rule of applying to college.

In the meanwhile, if you would like to know more about how to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the tasks involved with applying to college, please contact me. It would be my pleasure to use my many years of experience as an Independent Educational Consultant to help you successfully navigate the college admission process.