HS_Hopes-Worries-hedr_0309_0046_v1This is the week that many high school seniors have both longed for and dreaded. Notification letters are going out from colleges and universities all over the country. Many of us can guess how applicants are feeling just about now. But the Princeton Review decided to take a more scientific approach by surveying more than 8,000 college applicants.

 Here’s what they found in their annual College Hopes & Worries survey.

  • Stress levels are high – 71 percent reported “high” or “very high” stress about the application process.
  • They’re worried about college costs –  88 percent said financial aid will be “very necessary” and 74 percent said the state of the economy has affected their college choices.
  • They’re afraid they may not get enough financial aid – applicants are worried that they will get accepted at their first-choice college but not be able to afford it, 
  • They’re focused on getting a job: applicants identified “a potentially better job and higher income” as the number-one benefit of a college degree, rather than the education itself.

The Princeton Review also interviewed nearly 4,000 parents of college-bound students. They said Harvard College is their “dream school” for their child, while applicants listed Stanford University as their number one pick. But about half of the parents would like to see their child stay within 250 miles from home. Not so for their children. The majority said they would rather venture farther from home.


One Comment

Steve F. says:

This article touches on an important problem in America’s education culture: excessive college admissions stress. The stress associated with the college admissions process has gotten out of hand – 71% is simply unacceptable. Countless studies have found that prolonged stress is bad for physical and mental health. I am personally experiencing some stress waiting for notification of a second graduate school program for which I have applied. Yet I am 32 years old and have far more life experience and I am more mentally developed than high school seniors undergoing the gut-wrenching experience. The stress may be particularly troublesome for adolescents, as teenagers have a prefrontal cortex that is still in development and their stress management skills are still in development.
I am afraid that we adults are largely to blame for this stress-mongering of the admissions process. As you highlighted above parents articulated that their “dream school” for their child is Harvard College. As the documentary “Race to Nowhere” clearly articulates, this attitude of parents and educators puts excessive and unnecessary pressure on America’s youth. The documentary even covers some children who committed suicide as a result of the stress in their race to the Ivy League. In my opinion, if one child in America is driven to suicide over the stress, that is one too many.
It is time that we unite as parents and educators to diffuse the stressful race to the best college. For one, I think that the value of an Ivy League degree over one from a good state college is limited. Our competitive society greatly exaggerates it. Your undergraduate degree really helps you land your first job and not much more. From there one’s work ethic, job performance, social skills / emotional intelligence, graduate education opportunities, and seizing new job opportunities matters much more. I have one close friend who went to UMass Amherst for Electrical Engineering. He performed well in his job, earned his MBA, and continues to climb the corporate ladder at Raytheon. Meanwhile, I have another friend who went to an Ivy League school (which I will refrain from identifying). He turned self destructive shortly after graduating; he got involved with drugs and ended up in prison. Now these are only two examples, but I would contend that the school name on your diploma matters much less than what you do with it and far less than what our culture hypes it up to be. It really only serves to put extra stress upon children and contributes towards robbing them of their youth. To optimize development, we should be shielding adolescents from unnecessary stress. It is time for us parents and educators to step up and stop the stress-mongering of our youth, end the race to nowhere, and refocus our priorities on actual teaching, learning, and fostering the inherent interests of our youth.

Steve F.
Student, Harvard Graduate School of Education