Author: Valery B.
As I press the ‘submit’ button on my last application, I cannot help feeling the anxious excitement that comes over me: I have just sent in the documentations that would determine my future. Over the past decade, the world has seen a spike in college applications, as millions of teenagers send in their documentations in hopes of paving a successful future for themselves. Whether applying to college is a norm in their communities – as it is in mine – or a path that their parents or even they have envisioned for themselves throughout their entire lives, teenagers dedicate a vast amount of their energy towards “life’s next step” – not to mention the grotesque amount of money that they spend as well. There is no controversy to the fact that college is an important part of life; through the last five years, the correlation between a college degree and success and economic-stability has become evident in all aspects of life. Unless you are the one in a billion, who has an inexplicable, entrepreneurial nature and potential to change the world, it is very difficult to achieve prosperity without some form of higher education. Although this is all very evident, today’s society is missing the harmful attribute of this “college-craze”: as an increasing number of students send in applications and as colleges become more and more selective, millions of teenagers are succumbing to levels of anxiety, worry and defeat that have never before been documented in society. According to DoSomething.org – a global movement of campaigns aimed to dellineate problems that affect humanity -, “Anxiety is the most common form of mental illness in the United States. It’s estimated that approximately 10 percent of teenagers suffer from an anxiety disorder of some kind” (DoSomething.org). Unfortunately, although this statistic is grotesque, many people still do not see the severity of it: unless asking a teacher, who sees student anxiety first hand, or a doctor, who is knowledgeable of the disorder, many adults would claim that anxiety is a normal part of life that one must learn to “deal with” and “overcome”. On the contrary, however, an anxiety disorder, especially when left untreated, is very dangerous and harmful. As in the case of many older adolescents, who do not think twice of anxiety being a mental illness, asking for help for their personal turmoils is practically unheard of. Because young adults seldom seek treatment, it comes as no surprise that, according to the Anxiety and
Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders [affect] 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18% of the population” (ADAA). From the opinion of someone who has just applied to colleges and is waiting for the answers that determine her future, I truly believe that anxiety, especially the life-threatening and serious form, stems from the entire college process: taking standardized test scores, applying to schools, receiving acceptance and rejection letters. It is truly during this time that young adults – well, children, if I were to be more accurate – start to doubt themselves and their potentials for prosperous and happy lives. As a society who should be aware of this growing epidemic, we must work on combating it before it combats us.
There are several things that current adults and future adults can do to ensure their children’s health, happiness and belief in themselves through this tumultuous time period. The first thing is to encourage them to see the broader picture: the name of the college is not even close in importance to what they do and how they spend their time at the school. As my physics teacher recently said, “In this day in age, you can go anywhere and receive an excellent education because there are PhDs at practically every college.” A successful time at college would really comes down to what your child does with his or her time and how much dedication he or she puts towards classes and work. The second thing to remind your young adult is that if he or she is planning to go to Graduate School – which is highly recommended in today’s society and something that I myself want to pursue -, the place that he or she completes his or her undergraduate years at really does not matter! When one completes his or her masters degree, the only thing that prospective employers will look at in terms of education is the institution that he or she completed that latter degree at; thus, worrying about attending an Ivy League university or a highly-ranked college as an undergraduate venture should not be a priority. Rather, it should be a brief and insignificant consideration in respect to a child’s interests, passions and future goals: the only thing that makes a first- or second- tier school special is the superfluous amount of money they have for building on and improving their amenities. Knowing this, students will realize that they can get a wonderful, rich and enlightening education at whichever institution they attend. The third and, perhaps, most important thing to do is to indelibly emphasise that, in the end, everything will work itself out. Wherever a 17- or 18- year-old ends up at, is truly the place where he or she is meant to be – even if that means attending one college first and then transferring to another, or taking a year off to travel and explore and then furthering education. As I am currently at the stage of college franticity, I can attest that the teenager’s biggest worry is not being accepted to a school. Many students doubt that any college would want them as a student and, thus, develop that doubt and anxiety that persists well into their 20s and that, potentially, remains for the rest of their lives. This perception is not only detrimental to one’s mental health, but also extremely flawed: there is a college for any and all types of students. After sending in that final application, a student should, therefore, sit back, relax, and let time and life pave the road to the future. From one student to another, just have faith and believe that everything will work itself out, and it will.
For my adult and parental audience, I would highly encourage you to remind your child that wherever he or she ends up, you will still love and support him or her unconditionally. Many children have a fear of disappointing their parents or not meeting their parents’ expectations. I myself have had this fear and can identify that it leads to a plethora of my own anxiety – anxiety that builds on the additional mental illnesses that I have had to deal with throughout my life. No teenager should feel as though he or she failed or is not good enough for love, care and support, especially from the most important people in his or her life. Parents, if you see your child struggling with school anxiety, please do not hesitate to remind them of their worth.
Although school and the college application process is an immense culprit of anxiety in young adults, it is not the only one. Familial circumstances, other mental illnesses, bullying and many other life attributes contribute and may lead to anxiety. It is important to take note of these things and strive to diminish them. It is important to realize that anxiety is a very serious mental illness, that it is not a choice, and that it is OK to ask for help. The sooner that one reaches out, the better their life will be, the more happiness and success they will have, and the stronger they will be when facing other adversities. If you are someone struggling with anxiety, know that help, treatment and recovery are always options along your path and that the current state you are in is not eternal: whatever turmoil you are dealing with in the present too shall pass. Life will get better. Life will ultimately work itself out!