Managing Stress

It used to be that “love is in the air” during springtime, but not so for high school and college students, instead “stress is in the air.”  Anxiety runs high for seniors as they find out their decisions and juniors as they slog through the year with standardized tests, projects, college visits, and homework.

“Panic and stress has crossed all levels of education and socio-economic levels among high school students.” says Harcourt Lucius, Director of College Placement at Newark Collegiate Academy in Newark.  Not only is it apparent in high schools, but anxiety and stress are common complaints among college students as well.  A recent survey among mental health Directors at college campuses stated the students are increasingly seeking out mental health services on college campuses.

Students are not home so there is no safety net.  Even though there has been an increase in the number of students with psychological problems, there has not been an increase in the staff or faculty at most colleges.

Below are several suggestions for how to help minimize stress and anxiety among students.

Develop a Tool Kit Long Before Leaving for College.   Allow students to make mistakes and learn from them in a supportive environment during high school.  If they get practice dealing with problems on their own before actually being on their own, it won’t seem so overwhelming when they get to college.

Motivation is Internal.  Motivation does not necessarily develop on the high school level.  No amount of parental nagging will turn around a high school student.  Once a student finds an interest, no nagging is needed.  Your child wants to have his own dreams and he should.

Know thyself.   It’s important for students to have an honest conversation with themselves about what they want and can handle. So students, make sure that you are taking all those honors and AP classes because it is what you want and not because you think you should.  You need to know who you are and what will work best for you.

Think about a Gap Year. Gap years have become increasingly popular for a wide range of students from a high achieving student who wants to take a break from the pressures of school to a student who feels unfocused and wants to gain some direction says Holly Bull, President of the Center for Interim Programs, LLC.   Click here to read more about exploring a gap year.

Gap years vary from community service, to cultural immersion, to internships, to working.  The most common times to take a Gap year are right after high school or after sophomore year in college if a student still does not know what they want to study.   Bull says, “Your natural curiosity gets tapped when you choose a gap year experience so kids can explore their interest and naturally choose what they want to do.”

Gap years can be surprisingly affordable depending on the program.  Many service programs provide room and board and just require that students pay the airfare and incidentals.  Ms. Bull also recommends that parents provide students with money for the full year and have them allocate a budget to make it last.  These skills will become invaluable as they go onto college.

The College Admissions people on the panel recommend getting accepted first and then deferring for a year.

Good luck seniors as you hear back from schools and students getting through the last couple of weeks before spring break.

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