You may or may not know this about me, but I’m a big fan of yoga. Like I do yoga every day. It keeps me healthy and balanced and taking care of my middle-aging body, but also it teaches me a lot about myself. My favorite pose is the tree pose. It’s where you stand on one foot while balancing the other foot on your calf or thigh. It sounds easy, and it is — unless you are rigid. If you’re rigid, then you’ll lose your balance because you won’t be able to handle the wobbles. So, while you’re going through these next few weeks, I want you to be thinking about how you can withstand those wobbles. Some of them might be outright stumbles — and that’s ok. As you move through these next few weeks of dealing with your early application decisions and finishing up your apps, I want you to remember that you too can be like the tree. You can allow the wobbles. But unlike a tree, you can get back up when you fall. And you will.
Look, applying to college is stressful, and can be overwhelming. But there’s also something really amazing about the admissions journey. I call it wind.
And here’s why: Some stress is good for you. You aren’t going to live long, full, absolutely stress-free lives, so it’s important to learn to work through it in your life.. I’ve heard this called stress inoculation before.
Baby Trees, College Decisions, and Stress
Now, I really hope you botanists out there don’t call me out on the details of this story because anyone who knows me can tell you I’m no scientist, but I am a former English major and English teacher, so I love a good metaphor, and when I first heard this story, it struck me, and it stuck with me.
Back in the 90s, there was this big ole Biosphere in Arizona where they were trying to create a completely self-contained ecosystem and grow trees, so that, you know, if we get booted off Earth someday, we can take our plant life with us.
They made the conditions absolutely perfect for raising these baby trees. Perfect soil. Ideal temperature. Perfect amount of sunlight and water. And the trees grew and they grew fast and tall and seemed healthy and then — they started to fall over. And do you know why?
The scientists had forgotten to provide the wind in creating the perfect environment for raising their beautiful baby trees. And because there was nothing pushing on these baby trees, nothing trying to knock them over, the saplings never experienced any stress. And without the stress from the wind trying to knock them over, the trees weren’t creating “stress bark,” a bark that makes them stand strong, and they weren’t able to bear their own weight — even in this beautiful, protected, forgiving environment.
So, take heart in the idea that it’s ok and healthy and good and necessary for you to experience a little wind, a little stress. The college admissions journey is stressful — or windy as I like to now call it — I’m not gonna lie, but that can be a healthy experience. For many of you, it’s the first time you’ve come across this level of stress and when you make your way through the admissions journey and you’re standing tall at the end — even when admissions results do not go your way — you’ll be incredibly proud of yourselves — and stronger.
Now, here’s what I love most about college admissions
I guess nature’s on my mind because I’ve been thinking about lotuses a lot in addition to trees. They’re beautiful flowers, but they only grow in mud. Think of all this shit you’re going through — your obstacles, your suffering, your anxiety — as your mud. That mud is the common ground of humanity. We all have similar obstacles — sadness, loss, death, illness, grief. But, in the end we have to grow from the mud. So, accept this mud as essential to your life — essential for whatever is happening now within you and whatever is coming your way.
It can actually be this period of amazing self-growth and development — like no other if you allow yourself to recognize that some amount of stress is necessary and good for your development, and if we acknowledge that there might be ways to reframe our understanding of college admissions by changing the words and phrases we use. When you take control of your admissions journey and you incorporate some mindfulness into your lives, you can grow in self-confidence and maturity as you dig in and learn more about yourself than you ever have. Figuring out what you want in a college, developing a list, and writing personal essays all require deep reflection and self-investigation.
I’m gonna leave you with these amazing words from Rick Clark, Director of admissions at Georgia Tech — and they’re not about plants at all, but about YOU:
Taking the reins and handling the details and difficulties of the application process demonstrates your abilities and strengths. And, no matter the outcome, no matter where you end up going to college, no matter how painful some of this journey might be, this transformational experience, filled not only with stress but also with excitement and joy — is turning you into a stronger human, ready to take on college — and life.
“People want so desperately to predict and analyze admissions decisions that are influenced by macro institutional goals and made in rooms that one will never enter… This is your one and only senior year. Do well, but more importantly, do good. Don’t worry about those rooms hundreds of miles away, but rather the ones you walk into every day. Be a good friend. Be a good sibling. Be a good teammate. Go thank a teacher who wrote a recommendation for you. Hug your mama.”
XOXOXO Admissions Mom
Tl;dr: Be a tree. Be a lotus. Be a good person. You can handle this — even if it feels like you can’t.