Stress of college applications negatively impacts the health of high school seniors


Photos by Jankhna Sura

As the vapid cycle of college applications begins, many high school seniors are faced with the stress of balancing their classes and producing good content for their applications.

The question that many educators and parents are left asking is, how long will it take until these stress factors affect  student’s health?

During the college admission period, universities review the student’s Grade Point Average (GPA), class rank, SAT and ACT scores for the academic focused aspects of an application.  Colleges also look at extracurricular activities, essays and teacher or counselor recommendations to see what characteristics one possesses that would be beneficial to them. The early application deadlines for many universities are from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5 and the regular application deadlines are between Jan. 1 to Feb. 1.

“I think it is very important for students to be well informed, to do research online about the colleges their interested in and to make sure that those colleges offer the programs they would like and if all possible to do tours of the colleges campuses,” said Dean Wright, counselor.

Throughout senior year, students are often overwhelmed with the weight of essays, school classes and application deadlines. The pressures of maintaining grades in many high intensity classes like Advanced Placement and honors classes in addition to the application process, all add up causing students to be pushed to the limit. Superfluous parental demands and expectations conjointly drive seniors to feel out of control and pushed by society instead of themselves causing chronic stress. Several seniors are further stressed with trying to aggrandize their resume with extracurriculars that conflict with their already packed schedule.

“It’s unreasonable to express your personality, interests, and work ethic in a couple essays,” said Emily Steele, senior.

Due to the increase in the U.S. population of students ages 18 to 24, the accretion in competition to get into top universities is colossal. Enrollment in universities has increased 15 percent from 1970 to 2014, stressing students to stand out from their peers and work harder than normal.

“I had to make sure my essays and short answers were perfect because I applied to competitive schools, so getting people to review them and making time for myself outside of all my homework to edit them made me kind of stressed,” said Andrea Housel, senior.

Students repeatedly exhibit lack of sleep, neglect for work and school, headaches, irritability and often anger. In many instances, substance use is a method of coping with stress. These behaviours lead doctors to believe that with the stress of college application and school blended, it induces mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

“The stress affected me everyday for about 3 weeks, I was constantly dreading school, which I usually enjoy, because I knew I would have so much homework to do each night along with my college applications,” said Housel. “I was also constantly tired and felt like I didn’t have weekends to look forward to anymore since they were just filled with college applications.”

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry claims that relaxing through music, pets, friends, art, literature and writing can help one reduce stress.

“To reduce stress I would recommend talking about the application with your friends,” said Steele. “There were so many times I forgot about a form, or a deadline, or an activity and a friend reminded me, total lifesavers.”

Throughout schools across the nation, changes in moderation are being made to help keep students less stressed. For example, schools are encouraging teachers to be more conscious of student’s priorities and commitments. Raising awareness in communities between students, educators and parents about the effects of exorbitant stress has also begun through high schools.

“I talk to seniors and lot, when they’re a junior I meet with them and have the junior conference to make sure they are choosing classes that are going to help them meet their goals and make them competitive for the colleges they want to go to,” said Wright.