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The Stress of College Planning

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“The important thing is to strive towards a goal which is not immediately visible. That goal is not the concern of the mind, but of the spirit”. This quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry portrays how Americans feel about a future goal and how Americans feel the need to always be ten steps ahead. The adolescents have the ability to direct their thoughts and actions towards the future and to create mental maps of future possible events: present images, wishes, hopes, fears and plans regarding action-goals in the future ("Adolescents' Future-Orientation: Theory"). Typical Americans are always concerned about what their next move is, how to get there and what will hold them back; they also know exactly how to get rid of what stands in their way. Teenagers now a days are always looking ahead to future careers and colleges. This however seems to be the root of our problems. Stress is a major cause of depression and teens turning to things that seem to mess up any future mindsets they have.
“The college admissions process is an initiation rite into adulthood,” says Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of books on teenage stress and resiliency for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “But if success is defined very narrowly, such as a fat envelope from a specific college, then many kids end up going through it and feeling like a failure.” (Parker-Pope). This is how I see it: you spend your entire life working for a career after high school. Think about it, when you were in kindergarten, you would tell everyone how you wanted to be something outrageous like a space cowboy. Then when you got older you wanted to be something more realistic like a professional baseball player and then finally, when you were reaching you’re Junior/Senior year of high school you really think about what you want to be and you might know the answer or not. No matter what you want to become, you have to go to college to be successful in that career. That creates some stress. There are a lot of tips you can take on how to increase your chance of acceptance to the college of your dreams. When preparing applications and admission packets, intelligent students should be able to show that they have not only taken classes to just skim by but classes that are challenging, been involved in extracurricular activities and community service, and have some kind of proof of a long term commitment to a goal. Their essays that the students write should demonstrate that they are able to write at a college-level ("College Planning for Gifted Students"). Choosing a major is another task that students find discouraging. “Some multi-potential students with many interests may have trouble setting long-term goals and may need assistance in developing a focus, otherwise they may hop from major to major. These students need to be assisted by finding career paths that connect to their deeply held values,” ("College Planning for Gifted Students"). Going and talking to a guidance counselor or a family member maybe helpful to just talk to, to see if they can help set your priorities out. On the other hand, students who know their career passions at an early age should go through mentor-ships or internships to help show colleges that they have a real interest in what they are going to major in at their college ("College Planning for Gifted Students"). Students should correlate their interests with possible career paths. A suggestion, juniors should list 10 to 20 colleges that meet their qualifications, compare these schools, and narrow the list to 5 so that they might visit them before their senior year ("College Planning for Gifted Students"). This will help relieve stress of trying to scramble to find colleges your senior year and also it will help with choosing a college on what you want instead of in a rushed panic.

The top five reasons for stress of high school students are homework as number one, grades as number two, major tests (ACT and SAT) at number three and coming in at fourth and fifth is college acceptance and where to go to college. That’s pretty high up on the ranking for teenagers. It’s above social and extracurricular stress ("37 Causes of High"). Today’s high school sophomores and juniors face some bad statistics. “After a 15-year climb, the number of high school graduates still hasn’t peaked — that is expected to happen within the next two years.” (Parker-Pope). “There are some kids who can handle it, but some of these kids have had college on the brain since sixth or seventh grade or even earlier. When you have that kind of stress over that kind of time, that’s where it starts to worry us.” says Denis Pope (Parker-Pope). This is a big problem, when kids get too stressed out there can be side effects. Students complain about lack of sleep, stomach pain and headaches, but some doctors and teachers also worry that stress related to college planning can lead to depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems (Parker-Pope). Even if you get accepted into the colleges you were trying to get into, there is still the stress of deciding which one to choose ("Manage the Stress of Applying to College").

So now that there is all this stress there are also many ways to help students reduce it. Some people say that students with gifts (gifted students) should begin looking for colleges in junior high school (“College Planning for Gifted Students”). Some high schools are trying to improve the process by easing up on the workload of seniors who are filling out college applications (Parker-Pope). I think we should go a step further and offer a class in their senior year dedicated to applying to colleges, warning about things like the stress involved and how to write the essays so they can have a higher chance on getting into the college of their dreams. Homework can be overwhelming as it is, but try adding on different essays that are due for college applications. Now the students would have a class just for that and it would help lower the stress. They would give you the advice you need to push you further and prepare you for more of what stresses everyone out the most their freshman year. For instance, Dr. Ginsburg says parents can help children develop a way to cope with the good an the bad in life. The key, he says, is to teach them that their parents’ high expectations of them aren’t tied to grades or accomplishments. “It means teaching them, ‘I know who you are deep inside, and I always expect to see that compassion and generosity in you,’ ” says Dr. Ginsburg (Parker-Pope). Some of the hidden stresses of college are in things you think would give you the most freedom. Things like making your own schedule, the harder work, the new social scene and the fact that you are more independent. The good thing is, however, is that college is full of resources: professors, tutors, counselors and resident advisers (“Strategies for Succeeding in College”). Help and advice are available, but it’s up to you to go out and find it. This class would be able to give all the fine details on how to make your schedule give you time management skills and also a fun way to end your senior year of high school with a class all about getting into the college of your dreams. If this class was a possibility then the class would be called College Application and Preparation and it can be abbreviated C.A.P.; as in a graduation cap and that is our ultimate goal as it is.

As Mr. Kohl states, “Almost all energy is directed toward realizing that better future.” Although this gets us to where we are as students and with anything we do in life; it can also be a burden we have to bear. There are many ways to help improve your image with a college and many things we can do as students and that teachers can do for us to help prepare us for that battle. If our schools offered a College Application and Preparation class we would be able to take some of that stress off college bound students. This future orientation of students causes unnecessary stress and panic that teenagers don’t need.




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