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Embrace Self-Care During the College Search

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

You’ve had a hard time propping your eyelids open during English class. You fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow every night. You have to heat up plates of food that your mom Saran-wrapped because you don’t have time to sit down and eat dinner with the rest of the fam.

You’ve worn the same socks for three days in a row and… did you wear those jeans yesterday? Who knows? 

You must be a senior in high school. With mounds of college applications, scholarship applications, asking for letters of recommendation and learning how to schedule college visits, the college search is just plain exhausting.

It’s been said many times, many ways this year—but here it is once more: Don’t forget to implement self-care into the college search process. We’ve put together an easy list to help you, help yourself.

Implement Self-Care as Part of Your Daily Routine 

First of all, self-care refers to more than just making sure you take a shower every day. But it does refer to hygeine. 

1. Spruce yourself up.

Seems crazy to bring this up, but during COVID-19 (especially if you’re participating in remote learning), it’s really easy to wear the same sweatpants six days in a row then wonder if you’ve changed lately. Brush your teeth, take showers regularly, floss, put on clean clothes. Do all the basic things so your mind is clear and ready to finish college applications and write scholarship essays—and handle school on top of all that.

2. Identify what you believe is the best way to care for yourself.

What is self-care to you? Yoga? Running? Hanging out with friends (safely)? Make sure you’re actively pursuing your favorite self-care item—not the self-care you’re “supposed” to be doing, not the “right” thing to do. What does it for you? Does eating a giant Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen every so often mean self-care to you? That’s okay. 

Make it about you and only you. 

3. Make time to actually do it. 

It’s really important to take time to take care of yourself. Whatever you’ve identified is the thing for you, put time into doing whatever it is. So, for example, if your thing is running, don’t just give yourself 10 minutes to run every day. Give yourself an hour or more—to stretch, cool down, stretch again, then walk home.  Don’t rush it. Put time into your self-care activity. 

4. Examine your mental health. 

Filling out college applications, going on college visits, talking with admissions counselors on Zoom and more—all of it is exhausting. 

It takes a mental toll when you’re not getting the results you want, too. For example, if you’ve been rejected from three colleges, that can be really, really mentally hurtful and exhausting.

In that case, it’s time to take a mental health check. Are you feeling down more than usual? Are you less motivated to do the things you used to do? Tell someone—a parent, your doctor, a teacher or another trusted adult— so they can help you.

5. Know what self-care isn’t.

Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. Self-care should never be something that you force yourself to do or something you don’t enjoy doing. 

Rather, self-care is something that refuels you—never something that takes away from you. 

Keep in mind that self-care isn’t selfish either. It’s all about knowing what makes you happy and taking the time to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. 

dog and man sleeping in bed

Make Self-Care Happen During the College Search

How do you even have time for self-care during the college search? You’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off, so how do you do it? Take a look at these last tips.

6. Set some things aside. 

What can you do to relax and set a few things aside for now? This doesn’t mean that you’re not going to finish things—you’re going to start them, then relax a little bit.

Give yourself a break. If an application is due in January, relax for a couple of days.  

7. Get enough sleep.

Did you know that teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine? Don’t discount how much sleep rests, heals and restores your body. Even more alarming, children and adolescents who do not get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health and problems with attention and behavior, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).


If you’ve been staying up late at night to work on scholarship applications, college applications and more, take a break from it and go back to it during the holiday break—during the day. Two weeks off is a great way to knock it all out.

8. Set a timer.

Knocking out goals by setting a timer is a great way to make sure you get things done. If you mentally know you only have one hour to knock out a scholarship essay, you’re more apt to put your head down and focus until you get it done. The key is to make it feel like you’re in a race—slop stuff on a page and don’t hit the “send” button yet.

Set another timer a day later to refine, revise and edit what you’ve done. The magic is in the editing.

Focus on Yourself During the College Search

OK, one more thing. Have you been working really hard during the college search? If so, good for you. 

Now, if you haven’t, don’t use this post as an excuse to say, “I’ve worked soooo hard. I earned a break.” (Especially if you’re a senior and haven’t filled out a single college application.)

Instead, dive in a little harder over your break (during the day), still get plenty of sleep at night and knock out those applications, essays, interviews—whatever else you’ve got going on.

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Author: Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock is the founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her essential timeline and checklist for the college search!