Students struggle with anxiety over college acceptance

By Kasey Minnick
April 26, 2007

St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

Leaving junior high school and getting ready to be a “big man on campus” is anticipated by almost all young children. High school brings new friends, high school sports, a first time after-game party, but also throws in hard work with some intimidating administrators and teachers. As each year passes and graduation is nearing, the once fun activities start to diminish and high anxiety of getting accepted into a college or university becomes a number one priority.

According to Anne Leibig, the guidance counselor at Radnor High School, the anxiety doesn’t just become apparent as a senior in high school.

“High school students are stressed about college from the beginning of the ninth grade. Much of this stress in the early years is ‘fear of the unknown.'”

Students at this age do not know what colleges are looking for in an individual or may not even know how much is too much or not enough to study to get into their desired school according to Leibig. This is when the “dreaded” SATs come into play.

Kelsey Marcoccia, a freshman elementary education and special education major, said, “The SATs were awful because they changed the testing last year and made it longer with harder questions and that was not fun.”

Marcoccia did not receive a good score her first time around, so she had to wait three more months to take it again. She felt pushed into a corner because of it being February of her senior year; she did not know what school would be accepting this late.

After the SAT taking is over and done with, it is now time for the application process.

“Applications were horrible too because I was applying to some schools I was not interested in going to; they were just safety schools. So basically I was doing pointless hours of essays and answering stupid questions,” Marcoccia said.

Susan Buchman, a counselor at Byram Hills High School, tries to explain to families that the second-or third-choice college is also a wonderful place that the child will make friends, get a good education and life will go on, according to the New York Times.

Buchman said in a New York Times interview, “It’s a bittersweet time. They [parents] were hoping their kid was going to get into a certain school so that they could put the sticker on the car.”

As this frenzy is taking place, not only are the students panicking over the thought of college, but some parents join in as well and go to extreme lengths to make their children look better.

A Westchester guidance counselor described a student who was applying to a college that was required to send in a graded high school paper. The student brought in the paper with many enthusiastic comments written all over it. This counselor took a closer look and asked the student why the same teacher wrote comments in two different color inks. After all was said and done, it turned out the mother of the student had added some of her own thoughts, according to the New York Times.

Nick Swartz, a freshman accounting major, said, “Not only do you have to worry about the SATs and applications, but then you need to fill out your FAFSA and even more applications for scholarships. If you don’t get that money for college and your parents won’t help you pay for school, you may have to go to a community college, which isn’t your first choice.”

Merilee Jones, the dean of admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes the pressure is literally making children sick in everything from eating disorders to depression. Her “call to arms” is that parents need to back-off and children need downtime, according to the New York Times.

Leibig said, “College admission officers will say to take the classes that match your level of ability, do the work that is required in those classes, be involved in clubs, activities and sports that interest you and when the times comes to look for colleges, you will find a college that matches you.”

Swartz said, “Yes, that was one of the most stressful times of my life and thank God I got through it alright.”

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Kasey Minnick

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