The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the suicide rate for teen girls aged 15 to 19 has doubled since 2007 and tripled for girls aged 12 to 14. For the same period, the suicide rate for teen boys aged 15 to 19 increased 30%. Said differently, in ten years, the number of teenagers taking their own lives in the United States has skyrocketed.
Experts are trying to piece together the complex puzzle that has led to such depressing statistics. This dramatic and unfortunate increase is not due solely to the pressure teenagers feel when applying to college. However, the college admissions process is an incredible opportunity for us to inspire hope and excitement in teenagers. It is incumbent on parents and educators to turn it into a positive growing experience.
As parents, we want what is best for our children, and when we focus on the college admissions process, we do so for the opportunities that it affords our children. We want our children to be healthy, happy, and financially independent. Consider the following to make the admissions process healthy for your children and a source of inspiration for their long-term success:
1. Focus on growth opportunities. College is a means to an end. A student can be successful wherever she attends. Encourage your child to develop a plan for life beyond college and treat college as a step to obtain her goals. The name of the school is not as important when focused on the steps after it. Avoid the trap that anything other than XYZ college(s) is a failure. This is not a healthy attitude for this process.
2. Adopt the mantra of where you go is not who you will be. Many students think that they have to go to Stanford to become successful. This could not be further from the truth. Study after study finds that people can achieve the same level of success in their careers and be as happy in their lives regardless of whether they start their college education at an Ivy League institution or their local community college.
3. Build skills. Work towards fluency in a foreign language, learn how to code, or become proficient with an instrument or sport that can serve your child for years to come. Colleges will recognize the time your child spends dedicated to activities they enjoy –activities that can also prepare them for the future and make your child feel more confident about her future.
4. Follow passions, not dollar signs. If our children follow their passion, success will follow. Studying finance for the sake of becoming an investment banker, or computer science to work at Google does not make for a happy life if a student does not like finance or engineering. Encourage your child to follow a career path that is stimulating, rewarding, and financially secure. We want our children to be healthy and happy not just in high school, but for the rest of their lives.
5. Avoid group think. Junior and senior year of high school become very stressful as students begin to panic about the college admissions process. To combat this unnecessary stress, create a plan for the admissions process and stick to it. Making progress each month will combat the rampant anxiety that unnecessarily pervades this process.
Greg Kaplan is a college admissions counselor and the founder of College Path, the first web app that democratizes the college admissions process by providing weekly customized college admissions advice to parents and students. College Path and Greg are dedicated to helping students develop and market their passions to earn admission to their dream college and create the foundation for long-term success. For more information, visit www.collegepathweekly.com.