April is Stress Awareness Month, and consequently, the perfect time to discuss one of the most stressful things in a teenager’s life… the college application process.
More importantly, the focus of this article is on YOU, the parent, grandparent, teacher, advisor, mentor, great uncle Louie, whomever you are, and how you can help reduce the amount of stress your student is feeling.
Let’s remember the ultimate goal: we, the well-wishers and advisors, want these applicants to achieve something.
However we define it, whether it’s happiness, or simply a life spent challenging oneself. Perhaps it’s success along a certain career path, or something as simple and straightforward as financial security. Whatever it is, there’s some version of an end goal we hope these youngsters will achieve. And so, anything that negatively affects a student’s ability to achieve that end goal is undesirable. Well, stress can be one such factor. Worse, it can lead to health issues.
Focusing On The End Goal, Not The Path
The key is to reinforce the importance of the end goal, instead of particular paths that might lead to that goal. In fact, there are multiple paths to any goal. To embrace this idea is to introduce a crucial release valve to pressure that tends to mount around a particular milestone. Suppose a student’s overall goal is to be the CEO of a startup. In the short term, the student has his heart set on attending an Ivy League school. Suppose the student hits a roadblock in the form of rejection for each Ivy League application. The advisors who have fully embraced the philosophy that that end goal of becoming the CEO of a startup is still eminently achievable will react to these rejections in a healthier way. They’ll ask, productively, “Okay, what’s the next best option.” The advisors who unwisely place undue emphasis on the “path” will react poorly to the rejections, and this can create a highly stressful environment for the student.
Creating A Productive Culture For Your Student
Remember the saying, “Where there’s will, there’s a way”? When this becomes one’s guiding principle, setbacks lose the capacity to cripple. It all adds up to a powerful formula for mitigating stress during inherently challenging moments, in this case, the entire college application process. The stakes for any single milestone are now lowered because of this new context. Once you decide you will succeed somehow, the path takes on less and less importance, and this has profound implications on how much stress can mount day-to-day.
The most productive culture you can help create as a parent, grandparent, teacher or advisor is the one where all eyes fixate on the ultimate goal, and decidedly away from the shininess of any single milestone that should always be seen as what they are: stepping stones.
Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!