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 admission 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 admission stress is not inevitable, and you can eradicate much of it through greater understanding of the issue. This website aims to convince you of this using an innovative approach and mountains of supporting data. Here are some of the highlights:

Lists Tab

If you’re pressed for time, don’t skip the lists! They show where people in highly desirable professional positions in 12 categories received their undergraduate degrees. These lists are perfectly suited for dispelling the misconceptions of folks who think you have to attend specific colleges to get great jobs in certain fields. You’ll be amazed (and relieved) by the variety of colleges represented.

Presentation tab

Part 1 (3 pages) examines how admission stress originates and how harmful it can be. Understanding the root source 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. If you’ve worked hard and are admitted to one of the most selective colleges…awesome! If you’ve worked hard and are not admitted, you’ll be going somewhere that will afford you the same likelihood of a successful and happy future.

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 freshmen in the top 5% on math test scores (pages 3-4) and where CEOs of well-known US companies, NASA rocket scientists, Mayo Clinic neurologists, and law associates at Skadden Arps completed their undergraduate studies (pages 9-12).

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.

More Resources tab

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

The other 3 sections include ideas for further reading.

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My motivation for creating this site is not financial. If you wish to use material you find here elsewhere, you may–free of charge. Please see the ‘About’ section for conditions that apply to this use.

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 about college admission as possible. Some high schools have put links to Less High School Stress on their websites, and other referrals have been coming through Facebook, Twitter and other sources. Thanks for getting the word out!

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.