By Winnie Ma
You used to be those friends: the ones who told one another everything, did everything together, laughed at the same things together and gave the stink eye to anyone who dared try separating your crew. Recently, however, you've been noticing that even your closest friends have become increasingly secretive, wary and even jealous of your accomplishments, and it's really getting on your nerves.
Instead of being put under some evil spell or going through some serious personality changes, your friends are probably just feeling the effects of the college admissions season, so don’t stress too much – it’s probably only temporary. With everyone taking the same tests and trying to get into the same super-selective colleges, it's no wonder that the college applications process can bring out the worst in people. Luckily, all of this craziness will pass once graduation comes around, but until then, check out these four tips for dealing with college admissions competition among friends!
1. Don't brag
There's always that one kid who gets admitted to college in December and then feels the need to share her absolutely fantastic news on Facebook with the whole world... repeatedly. Aww, isn't that thoughtful of her? But actually, don't be that kid. Although doing well on your SATs and receiving offers of admission definitely deserve celebration, bragging about it to your friends during college application season can come across as being insensitive to their feelings.
"Social media is a huge source for the competitive friend to bring attention to [his or her] success," says Kerri Kingery, a counselor at Canon City High School. "[That friend] seem[s] to get so caught up in [his or her] fame and forget the others that may be affected."
Remember the stress you went through to achieve those accomplishments? Imagine the pressure that your friends are under right now. It can be tough for even the nicest people to be happy for you when they don't know how their applications are going to turn out.
Your friends might not hear back from colleges at the same time, and some may get waitlisted or receive rejection letters. So make sure you don't rub it in when you find out that you were accepted to a college and others were not. Share your wonderful news, of course, but try to leave it at that. Limit the celebrations until each of your friends has found a school, and then rally up the crew and go all out!
And if you're in a position in which a close friend is the one who won't stop bragging about her college acceptances, be honest with her. Maybe try telling her point-blank that you're feeling anxious about your own college applications and that you could really use some support right now. Or, the next time you catch her bragging again, try to respond with some humor and a lack of encouragement instead of going with the flow and pretending to be impressed. Maybe even try paying her a compliment, which will probably make her day and give her less of a reason to continue bragging. Hopefully with a little confrontation she'll get the idea that real friends should be considerate and supportive of each other during these drama-filled times.
2. Curb your jealousy
On the flip side of things, your close friends might be doing really well with their college applications, and you're simply waiting for things to look up a bit on your end. It doesn't make you a bad friend if you feel jealous of their achievements; trust us, it's totally normal! But curbing this jealousy will make things a lot easier for everyone involved.
Natalie* and her best friend both applied early decision to the same Ivy League school, and it definitely put a strain on their friendship.
"Originally, we didn't really talk about the school we applied to at all because it was just too uncomfortable ... which was helpful—until, of course the official decision came out," Natalie says. "Because it was early decision ... it was the only school we had both heard back from, and I got a flat no and she got deferred.
"When we found out, we told each other right away," Natalie says. "We were best friends, so I would've told her any college news first anyway. She was gentle about it, and I think I was very insecure right away since I was the one who got the flat-out no."
For someone as competitive as Natalie, it was difficult not to be envious of her friend's deferral. But talking about it instead of being sneaky or secretive helped them work through this bump in their relationship. Stay open and honest, prepare yourself for the possibility that some of your friends may get accepted and you might not and remind yourself that it's not their fault if that happens.
It's a natural response to want to blame your friends for your own college decisions, but keep in mind that they really aren't the ones who ultimately send out those acceptance letters. Try not to take things personally.
"There could have been any number of factors for why they deferred her and rejected me, but in the moment it feels very personal and was really difficult for me to get over," Natalie says.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your achievements, who you are and how proud you are of your own accomplishments. Feeling good about yourself will make it easier for you to be there for your friends and lessen the strain that inevitably comes out during college admissions.