When you face a stressful situation, say an upcoming academic competition, the SATs, a speech, and so on — is your first instinct to distract yourself from the anxiety that arises?

Do you grab your phone, take another pass at organizing your desk, or settle for *just one more* episode of your favorite Netflix show? 

Trust me. I get it. But even though these distractions offer temporary relief, the nagging task or problem often resurfaces in our minds.

What if we thought about the situation differently?

In The Power of Mindful Learning, scientist Ellen Langer describes an experiment in which patients about to undergo major surgery were asked to positively reframe their hospital experience by pointing benefits of being in a hospital, such as having time to create and review goals, or reconnect with family and friends.

Patients who reframed their experiences positively were less stressed, took less medication and were discharged sooner than patients who did not mentally prepare themselves.

Langer’s research demonstrates how our mindset influences our experiences, including the college application process. Stretching your mind in an unconventional direction can improve the quality of your writing experience and your college essay.



What if you reframed the college essay process from a stress-filled, unforgiving rite of passage to something more...pleasant?

One of my past students, for instance, reframed her college essay process as opportunity to:

  • Improve her writing skills for Speech and Debate team.

  • Improve her writing skills for college and beyond (she wants to become a lawyer).

  • Reflect on her family, childhood experiences, community, and friendships.

  • Playfully envision her future as a lawyer.

  • Turn her life into a creative story. Other people do it. She reads their stories all the time at maybe she could experiment with seeing her own life in an artistic light?

The good news is this student got into Yale; she continues to reframe challenging academic experiences and her strong GPA reflects this mindset.

Your turn.  Aside from getting you into college, what other positive opportunities might the college essay process present you?

Liz F. Bradley is a college admissions essay expert and founder of Ink Well Coach. She taps into 10 years of experience as an educator to help college applicants write winning college essays with heart and humor.

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