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Ways to Manage Extreme Stress in High School Students

Posted by admin on in College Advice |

describe the image A current article from WBUR Boston described the terrible tragedy of three Newton High School students who recently committed committing suicide.   Newton High School is known as a great school with a high-achieving student entire body and a very rigorous curriculum. The article, written by a Newton parent that is also a professor of psychology, inquired what high school administrators and faculty could do to address the tremendous stress of the student experience.

While the tragic situation with Newton is thankfully uncommon, several high school students feel enormous stress plus pressure to succeed.   So what are you able to, as a parent, do?   As a student, how may you help yourself and your friends to have the most out of high school without being overcome?   How can families prioritize health insurance and well-being in the midst of everything else that is occurring at a child’s high school?


Change your definition of success

As an educational consultant assisting students apply to college, I’ve realized that those who are the most stressed out tell me they would like to attend a “good” college yet have a very narrow definition of what that means.   If by a “good” college they are thinking only the Ivy League, MIT, and Stanford, there is a lot to be stressed about.   I gently try to remind them there are many good colleges in this country whose students learn an enormous quantity and become highly successful alumni, which many of those colleges have admit rates of 20 percent, 30 percent, forty percent, or higher.   Remember, George soros graduated from the University of Nebraska, Omaha!   In fact , a study performed by two economists, Alan Krueger at Princeton University and Stacy Dale at Mathematica Policy Study, determined that applicants with SAT scores as high as those of successful Ivy League applicants may have been rejected through those Ivy League or various other elite schools, but still enjoyed typical salaries similar to graduates of top notch schools.   In other words, attending a “big name” or otherwise elite institution did not create student success.   A talented student who attends Penn State is just as likely to be productive as a talented student who attends Yale.


Find what works for your child

So back to our original question—how would you deal with the stress of high school plus remain a healthy person?   Hopefully the information above hasn’t made a person more stressed about grades and check scores, but instead has helped you realize that you don’t need to attend probably the most well-known school to lead a successful life.   Coming to grips with this reality should free you from your expectations of “measuring up” in order to others in an admission process which is so selective that the demands can seem both infinite and impossible.

In concrete terms, this particular doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard in high school.   You should.   You also should be involved in extra-curricular routines.   But understand that in selecting AP or Honors classes plus activities outside the classroom, your objective is to be challenged , not overwhelmed.   For some, that may mean two AP classes rather than four; for another, taking zero APs in order to make way for a well-rounded senior high school curriculum, and two extra-curricular routines in which you are deeply and individually invested.   If you are so busy that you regularly get less than eight hours of sleep a night (during a typical school day, not finals week), then you should consider fast your load a bit.   This will confer many advantages beyond the extra sleep.   When you have time to reflect, you will not only learn more profoundly, you will enjoy the process of learning.


Provide support

As a parent, you are able to strengthen your child’s resolve to live a healthy life by telling your pet that you will be very proud wherever this individual goes to college, as long as he functions hard.   Students often look for this extra source of support from their parents in the midst of so many competitive exterior forces. Explain to your child that you want her to be challenged but not overwhelmed, plus remind her that if she is true to herself, whatever college admits her will be the right place for her to flourish.  



Sally Ganga is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts . Prior to joining College Coach, Sally was a senior admissions officer on the University of Chicago, Reed University, and Whittier College.

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