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College decisions can be stressful: Take care of the FAFSA, and take care of yourself

Written by
VSAC Staff

April 12, 2024


group of teens hand coming together

Between sports, theater productions, concerts, presentations and holding down a part time job—senior year is stressful. Add graduation and saying goodbye to friends, and it can feel like a lot. Maybe too much.

This year may feel even more overwhelming than usual. Delays caused by federal financial aid processes have made it even harder to answer that question that well-meaning people love to ask: what are you planning for next year?

You’re not alone — planning for next steps after high school has become even more of a headache for families nationwide. The initial 3-month FAFSA delay turned into a 6-month wait as the federal government scrambled to send colleges the data they need to offer financial aid packages to families.

If you feel worried and anxious about your college planning goals as you wait for your financial aid offers, you’re not alone. We’re here to offer tips to help you adapt to change and prepare to navigate the future, while making more time for yourself this senior year.

FAFSA filing relieves stress

It can be overwhelming to think about paying bills for education. The first step to reducing stress is to make college and career training more affordable by filing your FAFSA financial aid application. Filing your FAFSA gives you access to:

  • institutional aid packages offered by colleges or training programs
  • grants
  • scholarships
  • work-study funding
  • loans, if borrowing money is necessary to help pay for school

Millions of dollars earmarked for financial aid are left on the table every year, and that money can help fund your education. So, relieve pressure on yourself this senior year and file your FAFSA to get money for college and career training.

If you’re a Vermont resident, there’s another reason to complete the FAFSA. Filing your FAFSA gives you access to the Vermont Grant, a financial needs-based grant. VSAC administers the Vermont Grant on behalf of the State of Vermont. You can apply for the Vermont Grant now. VSAC is currently receiving FAFSA information and processing Vermont Grant applications, so if you’ve already filed, you’ll receive an email from us if we need additional information.

And if you need help filing your FAFSA, VSAC is here for you. VSAC offers:

If you need to make corrections or updates to your FAFSA, we are told that functionality will be available very soon when you log in to your account. There are a number of sources with instructions on how to make corrections. VSAC knows this is an important step for many, and we will keep you posted!

In addition, we encourage you to check your schools’ websites or take a look at this list from the National Association of College Admission Counseling to see if your schools’ financial aid deadline and reply dates have shifted.

Dealing with uncertainty is never easy, and not knowing the full picture for financing next steps is certainly a big question mark. When you’re in a waiting period, it can help to take a long look at life: where would you like to be next month, next year, and even in a few years? What are the steps to get there? Bit by bit, you can make it happen.

Find confidence by uncovering opportunities

Amid the chaos, take a moment to reflect: you made it through senior year! You’ve worked hard to reach this point and now you’re ready for the next part of life. Taking on new responsibilities can feel overwhelming, especially if you are committed to helping others at home, work, and among friends. But, with the support of friends, families, and your community, change can be exciting.

This last year of high school often helps to introduce you to new skills that prepare you for life’s next big steps. Being confident in your decisions is a skill that will keep you successful for the rest of your life. Part of the decision-making process includes opening up as many opportunities as you can for yourself. And even though it may seem like everyone has life figured out, that’s not true. The choices you make today —such as taking a step toward your future by filing your FAFSA if you have not already done so — will help you shape your destiny and make your plan after high school easier.

Eight ways to avoid stress for senior year—and beyond

The summer is coming and you’re ready for the next steps. How do you stay stress free while you wait?

1. Exercise

Exercising is one of the best ways to get your mind off stressful situations. Whether you dance, weightlift, play team sports, or simply take a little walk, exercising allows you to see your growth potential. Using your body and mind in harmony strengthens your resolve to not let things that are out of your control stress you out.

2. Set realistic expectations

Between prom, midterms, finals, internships, and teen life, senior year can be a lot. It’s okay not to have answers for everything right away. So, avoid putting too much pressure on yourself to always make "perfect" decisions. But the more you learn about your options, the easier it’ll be to make decisions throughout your life that align with your values and goals.

3. Use your support system

You’re not alone. When life feels stressful, don't hesitate to reach out to friends, family, teachers, or school counselors for guidance and encouragement. Talking about how you feel and what you’re thinking with people you trust can offer perspective, reassurance, and emotional support.

4. Take breaks and relax

Schedule regular breaks during the week to recharge your batteries and prevent burnout. What makes you happy? Reading a book? Listening to music? Spending time with loved ones or a pet? Go do it.

5. Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and meditation calm your mind and reduce stress. Sometimes it seems impossible to put the phone down and meditate, but we’re going to suggest it anyway. At least three times a week, try to step away from screens, books, pencils, and people and just focus on yourself and your thoughts for a half hour.

6. Focus on the present moment

Although the financial aid situation is messy this year, and you may still be waiting on financial aid offers, there’s nothing you can do besides wait for the schools and federal government to work out their issues.

So, what can you do today?

  • Study for important exams
  • Ask your crush to the prom
  • Look for a summer job

Remind yourself that you can handle challenges and that worrying about anything you can’t control only adds unnecessary stress.

7. Explore self-care practices

Prioritize self-care that nourishes your mind, body, and spirit. This includes:

  • getting enough sleep
  • eating nutritious foods
  • practicing good time management
  • setting boundaries around people, technology and social media

Taking care of yourself makes stress management easier.

8. Core life principles for college and the rest of your life

No matter what tomorrow brings, you’ll always feel prepared if you embody these core life principles:

  • Create goals
  • Adapt to change
  • Find inspiration and figure out what you need to do to follow it
  • Make time to reflect on your day/life
  • Make daily healthy choices with nutrition, substances, and relationships 

Senior year: one chapter of a long and colorful story

Remember that this decision process is just one chapter in your life journey. There are many paths to success and fulfillment. Trust in yourself and your abilities and know that you have the strength and resilience to navigate this transition with grace and confidence.

As your vision of the future develops, adjusts, and comes into focus, you’ll discover new strengths and new ways to find contentment. They say that the only thing that’s predictable about life is that it is always changing. Go easy on yourself, senior... take some time to celebrate, bask in your accomplishments, and set your vision for what is, and what will be. And remember, when it comes to advice on the FAFSA, college, or training, VSAC is here to help.