Welcome to Less High School Stress!
Millions of American teenagers are chronically stressed out about their efforts to get into the most selective college possible. Ironically, most people who worry constantly about about maximizing their potential are making it more difficult to reach their full potential due to the harm to their mental and physical well-being that stems from this stress. The good news, though, is that chronic college admission stress is based upon false assumptions and can be eliminated without negatively impacting your future success or happiness. This website is designed to prove this to you by bringing together all of the evidence in one place for the first time.
Here’s a brief introduction to this site:
The 3-part essay in this section will totally change how you look at college admission. It’s around a half-hour read with loads of useful information you’ve never seen anywhere else. Stress reduction guaranteed!
Part 1 was published in the National Association of College Admission Counseling’s summer 2021 issue of the Journal of College Admission Counseling and 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 was featured in an April 24, 2021 Washington Post article by Jay Mathews (author of Harvard Schmarvard) and 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.
Take challenging courses. Work hard. Pursue your passions, whatever they may be. But get enough sleep. Leave time for fun with family and friends. Stop worrying about every single grade you get. Stop wondering if failure to get straight A’s in your really tough classes is going to ruin your future (it’s not). Do these things and then create your college list carefully and realistically. You’ll be admitted to schools that will challenge you appropriately, that will have many other students who are similarly capable, and that will afford you the same opportunity for a successful and happy future regardless of whether it’s the most selective college you applied to or one of your ‘safety schools’.
These pages contain the data that prove it, including much that has never been seen elsewhere.
Part 3 shows an alternative approach–without all the stress–that is at least as likely to lead to a successful and happy future.
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.
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. The most capable students at any ‘safety school’, those who barely missed being accepted to a more selective college, will have the same options open to them at graduation if they continue to work hard, work well with others, and enthusiastically grab opportunities as they arise.
New as of August 2022! This section examines why it’s important to take the time to develop your own personalized ranking instead of relying on someone else’s idea of what defines an ideal education. It includes a close look at the US News rankings; a ranking I developed based on criteria important to me; and ideas for what criteria you might want to consider and where to find the data to make your own ranking.
More Resources tab
‘More Stress Reducers’ includes additional ideas for reducing some of the stress that accompanies the inevitable steps in the college admission process, including sections on Course Selection, College Testing, Activities, The College Search, College Applications, and Paying for College.
The other 3 sections include ideas for further reading.
My motivation for creating this site is not financial. If you wish to use material you find here elsewhere, please do–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 referrals have been coming through Facebook, Twitter and other sources, too. Thanks for getting the word out!