College Stress


Sophia Prost, Contributor

From the first assembly we attend as brand new freshmen, to the day we throw our graduation caps in the air, college is an ever-present cloud hanging over our heads as high school students. We’re told that now is when everything starts to matter. “Join this club! Join that club! You’ll need it for your college applications! Have you started studying for the ACT? Your grades need to be perfect!” Incredible pressure is placed on us as students, and it affects almost everything we do. From application worries, to grades, to finances, to location decisions, it’s a wonder we’re still able to function. In an APA poll on teen stress, it was found that teen stress levels were well above the levels of adults, at “5.8 for teens vs. 5.1 for adults.” Much of this can be attributed to the burden of college weighing heavily on teenager’s shoulders.

A huge issue Ms. Percy, the counselor here at St. Charles West sees students facing is, “Money. That’s the biggest thing they (students) come to ask about.” College rates have risen dramatically, at eight times faster than wages according to Debt is a hole that many soon-to-be college students can quickly find themselves scrambling to climb out of. With such high prices, it makes sense that we’re worrying about how to pay for our education. Percy encourages students to get involved in outside organizations and community service, as they are great ways to earn scholarships. Although this won’t completely wipe away the cost of college, it can lessen some of the burden. 

When asked what advice she would give high schoolers about the college process, she said, “Start early. Start visiting schools, start the application process early, get your ACT done.” Doing all of these things right from the get-go takes away much of the stress of college.

Hayden Gamache, a senior at St. Charles West, is a perfect example of someone who has dealt with the stress of college plans, and risen above it. When asked if she felt pressured about college throughout her high school experience, she said “I always felt stressed about college. The very topic of college is a trigger for most people but it was my kryptonite. Since I was a freshman, I always had the thought of the college application process in the back of my head.” She goes on to describe how this pressure made her feel like she couldn’t fail. She retook the ACT 6 time to achieve the optimum score for scholarships. In the end, pushing herself in high school brought her exactly what she wanted. Hayden was accepted into Mizzou’s Honors College, a huge dream of hers. “All of the hard work was totally worth it because that was one of the best feelings ever,” she says. But, her journey to deciding on college plans was filled with bumps in the road. Hayden explained how deciding to change her major late in high school was a nerve-wracking prospect. She had always planned to go into genetics, but fell in love with education during a volunteer experience. 

For her, talking to friends and family, as well as anyone else who would listen is what helped her through the process of choosing what to study, and college decisions as a whole. She encourages everyone to do the same. “It will make you much more comfortable with the topic as a whole once you stop avoiding it.” Another tip she suggests is to start early. “I found it was much easier to decide what schools to tour when I first thought about the broad “needs” before going into the detailed “wants,” she advises. But the best piece of advice Hayden offered? “Just relax! Don’t let the stresses of applying for college ruin your high school years.”