Stressed About College? Mind The Hype.

Students talk to me often about the stresses of college prep. The time spent searching, writing, self-exploring, talking about expectations, fielding questions from family members… The stress quickly snowballs for young people who are already dealing with the unyielding pressures of adolescence. Compounding this stress is the information world we are living in. Students can access the acceptance rates, rankings, who-got-in lists, and previously unavailable volumes of data. To say that the college process pushes the envelope of sanity for many students would not be an understatement.

Over the past ten weeks, I have been immersed in an exploration of technology tools in the college process. It’s been a fruitful journey. I’ve learned about virtual campus visits, search tools, repositories for financial aid information, and means to explore scholarship opportunities. I’ve also engaged in an ongoing discussion with classmates about the positives/negatives of technology in process. One of the topics that emerged from these discussions is the prevalence of stress as a result of the technology students are using. While the transparency that has resulted in the grand pool of information available through the internet has indeed been positive, the stress byproduct is alarming.

Knowing that this stress is likely on the docket for many young college-searching-students and, in fact, inevitable for many of them, I try to impart some sanity on the process. My major piece of advice for students is simply stated, but deeply challenging: Be Mindful Of The Hype. Being aware, keeping a positive outlook, and an open mind are key remedies to the stress. While easier said than done, here are some components of this mantra.

Mind the Technology Hype
With tools that range in use and price, the internet can be a treasure trove of stress for students. Certainly, there is no shortage of stress inducing college info — acceptance rates and rankings at the forefront. But, while this info is the bedrock of college hype — and must be considered carefully — there are plenty of tools available to reduce the hype. Some of these tools are chronicled in the resources section of this blog, but this is certainly not an exhaustive list. All of the tools have their strengths/weaknesses (including cost). Use the list to get you started, and select the ones that you like best.

Mind the Numbers Hype
With over 4,000 colleges/universities in the United States, there can be a college for every student. From UCLA and UT Austin, to Deep Springs Collegeand Babson College, to Elmira College and Marlboro College, the options are varied and inclusive. Students who thrive in nearly every environment can find a postsecondary fit if they are open to the possibilities before them.

Mind the Ivy Hype
There are eight Ivy League schools — the hyped most prestigious schools in the country. But these schools are hardly the be-all, end-all list of options. In fact, Ivy League schools are not for every student, nor should they be. Searching for colleges is as much about learning about yourself as it is learning about schools, and it is perfectly acceptable for this process to not include Ivy League schools. There are more than 15 million undergraduate students in the United States, and around 60,000 of them attend Ivy League. That leaves a VAST majority of successful students who happily attend other colleges, and will, inevitably, do very well for themselves.

Mind the Process Hype
Another major component of student stress is the college process — the preparation, the search, the application, the admission/rejection letters, the financial aid, and the final decision. Without doubt, this process is daunting and it does not need a lot of help in making it more so. But the process can be managed with finesse and grace, greatly reducing the stress. Connecting with their high school college counselor is a great first step in this process. This person will gladly share resources to aid in all stages, while making themselves available throughout.

Finally: Mind Your Own Hype
A piece of the college hype that students most often struggle with is the pressure. Pressure from themselves, pressure from parents, pressure from family, pressure from friends. With these competing pressures it is no wonder student stress is so great. Be aware of your own biases that you place on your student, and students beware of your own biases.