Ages 16-18: Stress Test

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Talk about inviting stress: Chloe Vaughan waited until shortly before college applications were due to turn in hers.

The Olentangy Orange High School senior made the cut at Ohio State University - her first choice - but wishes she would have applied earlier. While the colleges she applied to were still processing her applications, her friends were receiving acceptance letters and making plans for their futures.

Her advice to next year's class of seniors: "Apply as early as you can."

Daniel Nagel, also a senior at Olentangy Orange, also recommends starting early. He began his college search late last summer. He spent the first few months of his senior year researching colleges online - something he, too, wishes he would have done sooner.

Parents can help their students reduce the stress of applying to college by helping them develop a plan for the process, said Olentangy Orange High School counselor Daniel Straub.

Parents should start talking with kids about college readiness as early as middle school, Straub said, and when kids reach high school, they should be thinking about college visits and preparing for the SAT and ACT.

"Be prepared for a bit of a roller coaster ride," Straub said. "There's a lot going on. It's not just students getting ready for college. It's moving from adolescence into the adult years."

Students who are worried about doing poorly on standardized tests should know they have a variety of resources for help, said Mark Davis, college counselor at Upper Arlington High School.

Students can take practice tests, study online or work with a tutor to prepare for the tests.

And it's important for parents to remind students that the test "is not the only part of their application," Davis said.

Some colleges even allow for test-optional applications, he said.

Helping your student identify the right colleges to apply for can really ease their anxiety about their future, Davis added.

Straub suggests parents work with their students and school counselors to develop a list of schools where the student would be happy. The list should include reach schools (those where the student may not be a shoo-in for acceptance) and safety schools (those that will likely accept the student), Straub said.

Creating a realistic picture of the student's possibilities is crucial, Davis agreed.

"It's really a matter of creating a good list and paring it down to what's a good fit for the student," Davis said.

Suggestions for dealing with school-related stress:

  • Use a calendar or chart to develop a study schedule.
  • Check off and praise small and large accomplishments.
  • Maintain healthy habits related to sleep hygiene, eating, and social and physical activities
  • Encourage or facilitate conversation with peers who are experiencing the same stress and with older peers who have gone through the same events.
  • Arrange study groups at home.
  • Simulate testing conditions (quiet room, timed practice tests).
  • Increase positive thoughts and self-comments.
  • Set time aside to confront and address negative or hindering thoughts and self-comments.
  • Use laughter or relaxation activities that might include deep breathing. These techniques are helpful while preparing for and taking an exam, but should be practiced before the big day.

Source: Jarrod M. Leffler, director ofOutpatient Group Therapy Programming, Nationwide Children's Hospital Behavioral Health Services