Alright, let’s summarize what we’ve covered so far:

First we identified a rule that is harmful to both adults and kids because it can induce major chronic stress.

Second we looked at the significant risks associated with chronic stress, including how this stress can manifest itself physically and emotionally. We also identified ways we can diminish stress, including some that are helpful and some that are harmful.

Next we examined the differences between the college experience at the highest levels of selectivity and colleges that are slightly less selective. We found that those differences are not very sizable, and don’t even exist in some instances.

And finally, we looked at the salary and career outcomes for attendance at different colleges and saw that both in terms of salary and in terms of securing very desirable jobs, where someone goes to college appears to matter significantly less than who that individual is before they even enter college.

Hopefully I’ve got you thinking that the risks far outweigh any benefits of insisting that kids always do everything possible to maximize their chances of getting into the most selective college possible. Having 80% of our most capable kids feeling chronic stress, with around 50% feeling that stress at a very high level and around 25% being diagnosable as clinically depressed isn’t acceptable, right?

Because those high school students grow up to be college students and ultimately adults, and if that stress and their responses to it have become habitual—which is often the case—then we’ve got a society being led by people with mental health issues, physical health struggles and substance dependencies. That’s not good.

So what’s the alternative? We still need to have goals and rules to guide us as we help them work their ways toward adulthood.