Welcome to Less High School Stress!

As a counselor at one of the country’s most academically rigorous high schools for 18 years, I often witnessed the damage that college admissions stress can do to the mental and physical health of students and their families. With problems like this that seemingly affect everyone, it’s easy to assume they’re inevitable and that you just have to find ways to cope.

College admissions stress is not inevitable, and you can eradicate most of it. I’ve spent the past few years putting together a program that will hopefully convince you of this in under an hour of reading. Here are some of the highlights:

Presentation tab

Part 1 (3 pages) examines how admissions stress originates and how harmful it can be. Having a full understanding of any problem is the first step toward correcting it.

Part 2 (13 pages) provides overwhelming evidence that anxiety regarding gaining admission to the most selective college possible is unnecessary. The range of college selectivity–from those that admit 5% of their applicants to those that have open admissions–is a continuum with significant overlap, not a pyramid with discrete steps. Thus, the distance between the most selective colleges and those that are a bit less selective is significantly smaller than most people believe and very unlikely to have any effect on future success or happiness.

These pages contain multiple ways of looking at this, including an in-depth examination of how small the differences are between the most selective colleges and their ‘backups’ on some of the criteria used in popular rankings (page 5).

There’s also a clear, simple explanation for why admission to the most selective colleges is so much more difficult today than it was 20 years ago (page 3).

And there are lots of fun lists, including which universities have the highest number of students in the top 5% on math test scores (pages 3-4); where CEOs of well-known US companies went to college (page 9); where NASA rocket scientists and currently active astronauts studied (page 10); where Mayo Clinic neurologists did their undergraduate work (page 11); and where members of the class of 2017 working as law associates at Skadden Arps completed their undergraduate studies (page 12).

Part 3 (2 pages) shows the perhaps obvious solution.

FYI, this section is labeled ‘Presentation’ because it is intended not only for readers of this website, but also for school counselors and other professionals who wish to adapt it for use with their students and parents.

Lists Tab

Don’t skip the ‘Lists’! It shows where people in various desirable professional positions in 11 categories received their undergraduate degrees. These lists are great for dispelling the misconceptions of folks who think you have to attend specific colleges to get the best jobs in certain fields. You’ll be amazed by the variety of colleges represented. [Please click on the word ‘LISTS’ first to see some important notes about this section.]

More Resources tab

The ‘More Stress Reducers’ section includes some additional ideas for reducing some of the inevitable stress that accompanies college admissions, including sections on Course Selection, College Testing, Activities, The College Search, and Paying for College.

The other 3 sections include ideas for further reading.


If you find what you read here useful, please share it with others who may benefit, too, so we can get as many people destressed as possible. I’ve seen some high schools starting to put links to this site on their websites, and other referrals have been coming through Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for getting the word out!

My motivation for researching all of the information you see on this site is not financial. If you wish to use material from this website elsewhere, you may–free of charge. Please see the ‘About’ section for conditions that apply to this use.

Oh, and if you’re a student reading this website…..thanks! Despite much of the material being addressed to parents, this website was created primarily for your benefit. I’m confident you’ll find it relevant, and hopeful you’ll find it useful and interesting.