During the months of February and March, many high school seniors are stressing over which colleges will say “yes” to their college applications. By now, most high school seniors have completed the labor-intensive task of researching their higher education possibilities, have spent countless hours completing written applications, and have narrowed down their final college choices to a handful of possibilities. What do they do next? Wait and try to stay focused on the remaining high school classes they have to complete and try to stay positive. Nerves can be on edge for these high school seniors — and as we know, teenage stress is at an all-time high. The future is uncertain.
Times are tough for college bound seniors right now and their competition to get into colleges is stiff. Did you know that there are 37,000 high schools in the United States? That means there are also 37,000 high school valedictorians. That number is two and 1/2 times the number of freshman slots available at these prestigious Ivy League Schools. So these colleges are just a few examples of the selectivity that the college admissions teams enjoy.
Harvard University received more than 29,000 applications for admission into the 2013 graduating class. More than 2,900 applicants had perfect SAT scores in reading, and more than 3,500 applicants had perfect math SAT scores. The freshman class had only 1,655 slots which means that the applicants faced a 7% acceptance rate. Without knowing exactly what the acceptance equation includes, teens are trying to include enough extra curricular activities, leadership positions, community service involvement, and good grades. With these types of statistics out there for seniors, life is not always easy or fair, and rejection happens.
How Can Parents Help?
- Be honest about the school choice from the beginning of the college search process. Consider the environment, the financial costs, the social activities and the educational opportunities when choosing a school. Make certain that your teen is realistic in his expectations so that stress can be reduced. Talk to him about which schools are long-shots and which are safe-bets.
- Teens should have more than one first choice so that they remain flexible and can cope with college admissions decisions. There is no one right school choice so if they have more than one possibility, then their stress level will not increase waiting for one school’s answer.
- Remind teens that rejection should not be taken personally. Remind them of the odds they are facing. By being prepared for rejection possibilities it is easier to move on and focus on the choices that are available.
- Teens have a difficult time realizing that what is really important is what kind of adult they become in the long run. Have a frank discussion with your child about their future. The college decision-making process is a temporary difficulty that will pass — after they have achieved long-term success, this time of stress will seem like a bad dream.