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Students and Parents: Keeping balance and protecting well-being amid college pressure

The conversation about college in the US continues to feel fraught with uncertainty, with changing admission practices post-pandemic, continued media focus on a handful of almost incomprehensibly selective colleges, and messaging around following the "right" pathways to get into the "right" college to get the "right" job. With all of these comes pressure on students, unprecedented in times of peace, that has exacerbated a well-documented national mental health crisis in our young people from teenage years through college and beyond.

I am always on the lookout for valuable resources to share to help families navigate the high school years in a way that provides room to grow, grounding and balance for their teens. Here are some that have recently come my way. As always, a focus on what is in your control, and letting evidence versus hearsay guide your choices, are vital strategies to successfully transition to college and life beyond.

Conversation Starters for Creating a Sane, Healthy College Admissions Process with Your Teen

The Making Caring Common Project came out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education to promote qualities like empathy, gratitude and diligence, as colleges seek to incorporate character into the admission process and build healthy communities.

An interview with Jennifer Wallace, author of Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic-- and What We Can Do About It

In 2019, I wrote an article for The Washington Post citing two national policy reports that found students attending what researchers call “high-achieving schools” — public and private schools with high standardized test scores and rich extracurricular and academic offerings— are experiencing higher rates of behavioral and mental health problems compared with national norms.
A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine added youths in “high achieving schools” to their list of “at-risk” groups, along with kids living in poverty and foster care, recent immigrants, and those with incarcerated parents. A separate report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation came to a similar conclusion when it named the top environmental conditions harming adolescent wellness — among them were poverty, trauma, discrimination and “excessive pressure to excel.”

Read more to learn Wallace's thoughts on how "mattering" can offset this environmental pressure on our young people.

New York Times Opinion: School is Not Your Job

A college professor responds to their observations of contemporary student mindset.

College is a unique time in your life to discover just how much your mind can do. Capacities like an ear for poetry, a grasp of geometry or a keen moral imagination may not pay off financially (though you never know), but they are part of who you are. That makes them worth cultivating. Doing so requires a community of teachers and fellow learners. Above all, it requires time — time to allow your mind to branch out, grow and blossom.

"I applied to 22 Colleges, Here's What I Learned"

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