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THE SAVVY APPLICANT BLOG

Why Colleges Want You to Sleep More

 

April is stress awareness month. During the pandemic we have all had the challenge of maintaining our mental health, but it's been especially difficult for high school students

Selective colleges are looking for students that demonstrate they value their mental health. Savvy applicants practice self-care in a number of ways, including getting regular exercise and eating healthy, but two others stand out:

 

Sleep

The first is sleep. It's so good for your creativity, memory and immune system. It's what allows you to be your best self and colleges respect this—a lot. Imagine a student who wrote on their activity sheet that they slept 55-65 hours a week. What would a college admissions officer think?

Given that they are reading fast (sometimes an application gets just 8 minutes), it would probably make them slow down and read more carefully. And since few students list this as an activity it would stand out. They would say to themselves, "this is interesting!"

Most admissions officers at selective colleges are painfully aware that there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation among teenagers. This is part of the reason why they appreciate and respect students who focus on a few rather than many activities. The Common App has 10 spaces, but you don't need to use them all! 

Your Motivation

After they did a double take, they would be interested in your motivation for highlighting your sleep. "Is this a ploy?" If your explanation was that you believed sleep was a priority for good reasons, like you had been curious about the science of the health benefits and decided to make it an experiment, that would certainly be positive. 

If your belief in the importance of health was complimented in other activities and places on the application (maybe you had discussed your interest with a science teacher and it was mentioned in a Letter of Rec, or maybe it came up in an application essay or a conversation in a college interview)  it would be even more compelling. 

 

Mindfulness

A second key to self-care is mindfulness. A mindfulness practice can take many different forms, but  learning to observe, name, control, and use your emotions intentionally is truly a superpower! 

Our minds are really good at shuttling between past and future, driven by our fears and desires, memories and imagination. Our minds habitually go from reflecting on the past one moment, to worrying about the future at the next moment, with less time spent on the present.
 
This disconnection with our present reality has become even more severe with the advent of smartphones and the high levels of stress in our modern day lives.
 
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of filling our minds with the present, moment by moment. When we are mindful, we are more present; when we are more fully present, we listen rather than just hear, we perceive rather than just see. And, as a result we become more self-aware.
 
Self-awareness is how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It affects everything we do, and impacts every interaction we have with others. 
 

For me, it's a combination of yoga and meditation that helps. If you're interested, there are many yoga classes available online including this free series of beginners classes. For meditation, I have long been a daily user of the app, Headspace. I encourage everyone to check out their explanation of the neuroscience on Netflix.

While it shouldn't be the main motivation, this type of activity could definitely be a strong part of your college application.


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