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PART 1: Five Ways to Stay Grounded During the College Process

Just a few weeks ago I hosted a webinar about staying grounded during the college application process. It was primarily focused on families with seniors moving through college applications. The more I worked on the webinar I realized much of what I shared could relate to families with any high school student planning to attend college. So, over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing in my blog and newsletter about the 5 ways, highlighting one “way” each week. I’ll present the challenge many are facing and then provide solutions.

The first way to stay grounded as you navigate the college process is to INVITE CALM. Yep, you read the right. Invite calm. All of it. Every last ounce. Invite it into your life EVERY. DAY.

There is so much to learn about this process and it literally changes every application cycle. In addition, there are many opinions about how to do things and opinions on where your child should apply. Think about it. How many times have you been asked,

“Where is Christopher thinking about going to college?”

“What does Simone want to study in college?”

“What colleges have you visited?”

“Have you heard about the Smith’s kid who didn’t get into Harvard?”

I call this chatter.

The college chatter refers to what we hear (and read) regarding the college process that induces stress and worry for parents and students. This chatter comes from friends, relatives, social media, teachers, and happens in many places as well such as the stands at the ballpark, PTA meetings, coffee klatches, and the office. This chatter becomes so loud that information becomes jumbled in our heads and many lose sight of what the goals are for the student. I know parents are hearing it but I can assure you students are hearing it even louder than parents. And might I add, COVID has significantly amped up this chatter.

So, what can families do to quiet this chatter?

First, as a family, make a choice. A conscious decision. You can choose calm and connected - or - stressful and overwhelming.

You decide. Which one sounds better?

Second, model for your student (and quite frankly the entire family) a calming presence. How do we do this?

As many of you know from my training I take a mindful approach to the college admission process. I even have a clause in my contract about it. The easiest exercise I know to accomplish the goal of inviting calm into our lives is through our breath. It’s easy and effective if it’s practiced daily. And it costs us nothing!

So, here’s a simple exercise to practice.

Take 3 breaths.

Sit tall in your seat.

Lower your eyes or close your eyes.

Breathe in through your nose….out through your mouth.

Try to expand your rib cage horizontally instead of lifting your shoulders vertically.

(Repeat 3 times)

Just a brief understanding of why this tool works:

When our diaphragm moves up and down it is stimulating the vagus nerve which sends signals to our brain that essentially calms us from within. And another perk is when our brains are calm, learning can occur more easily! (Hence, if you know you have an anxious kiddo, this exercise can be a game changer not only for mental health but for improved learning!)

Now, this isn’t something you can just do one time and expect to see immediate change. This is something that takes practice. Just like playing a sport or a musical instrument or studying for a test or taking up a new hobby. It takes patience and a little practice.

And again, the best part is, you can practice it anywhere at any time! Your breath is always with you. Let me give you some examples of places and instances where you can practice.

  • Waiting at a stoplight

  • Waiting for a train at a railroad crossing

  • Before eating a meal

  • Before getting out of bed

  • Before/after a meal

  • As you get into your car to leave for work

  • Basically any time throughout your day that is a transition.

When you are transitioning from one activity to another. Take 3 slow, easy breaths. The more you do it, the easier it gets! And the more calm you will become.

And believe me, when your child notices the calm you are modeling, they will follow.

“Believe there is peace up ahead, ever if there’s no sign of it on the horizon. Even if you can’t see it yet, trust it’s there. In the meantime, do what you can to bring a little peace to this day. Breathe.”

From the book Keep Moving by Maggie Smith


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