Our Chicago: Stress in the College Admissions Process

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, October 22, 2023
Our Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's that time of year when high school seniors are right in the middle of applying to colleges.

It can be a daunting process no matter where they want to go, but it may be even more stressful after the recent story of a Northern California teen who had nearly the perfect score on the SAT but was rejected by 16 of 18 colleges he applied to. Among them was the University of Illinois.

One bit of good news, he did get hired by Google.

Brian Coleman is an award-winning school counselor and counseling department chair at Jones College Prep in Chicago. He shared college admissions tips with ABC7.

Brian Coleman is an award winning school counselor and counseling department chair at Jones College Prep in Chicago.

"I know that the college admissions process brings out a lot of anxiety for us all and like maybe our process and what we went through when we were applying versus what's happening now it is different in a lot of ways," Coleman said. "The anxiety is similar though. I do think when it comes to competition, what I do see is that students' priorities around potentially staying closer to home versus going out of state may have shifted where we are with COVID and where we are as a community. And I think that creates some additional competition for some of our local or in-state schools. And I also think about the institutional priorities as schools have more students applying, every year each college and university have their own admission priorities and that might shift. And what would have been an excellent candidate last year may be different this year and I think that can be difficult to track outside the admissions function of a school."

A group of high school seniors will be the first to submit their applications since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis for granting admission.

"I think its important even before the decision and especially now just to encourage students to do what's so important in the admissions process, speak your truth," Coleman said. "Be honest about who you are, what's important to you, how you think, how you learn, how you've grown, and what you hope to bring to a school community. "

The college admissions process isn't only competitive, it can also be stressful.

Alexa James is the Chief Executive Officer of NAMI Chicago, and she talked about how the stress of the college admissions process can be different for every student.

Alexa James is the Chief Executive Officer of NAMI Chicago.

"Get down to basics. Name the stress," James said. "Is it the studying, is it the transition, is it the unknown? Normalize that. You know it's interesting, because during these transitions often while it's the same event, parents and students are feeling very differently and having different fears. Transitions are always an important opportunity for families to come together and share that experience. And hear each other, maybe without solutions and name what's making them feel anxious and normalize that because they're not alone. A lot of people are going through this like really scary transition. And it's okay and it's normal."

Parents often tell our kids to pursue their dreams. But the reality is not every child can achieve their goals especially right away. So how can parents prepare them for possible disappointment and doing so without making them feel that we question their worth or their abilities?

"Conditional love is felt a lot by children," said James, "I'm loved, I'm paid attention to if I do this well. And they don't often feel the same way if maybe they're not doing it well or they're failing, which they're not. But kids don't become young adults with the dream of college. They become young adults with the dream of being seen and heard and safe. And so, if we can really think and focus on that and also hold our loved ones during times that they may feel disappointment that's really what resilience building is. And what we want kids to do whether they go to college or stay at home or do vocational school or whatever makes them feel important and purposeful. What we want them to be able to do is manage daily stress in a way that doesn't take them out. That doesn't take over. And so it's less about who's going to be disappointed and more about how do we work through things that we didn't anticipate."