A New Anxiety For High School Seniors

Trying to Overturn US Election Results Sends a Message that Can Increase Anxiety among High School Seniors Applying to CollegeBut Their Futures are Still Bright

When I repeatedly read about efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election in the United States, I think about high school students, especially seniors. This is the time of year when I tell them that a denial or deferral from a college is disappointing but they will bounce back. One of the stories that I relate is summed up with these words, “It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do with it.” I know these students will get into college and will have terrific experiences and go on to well-lived lives. However, when I read about what’s happening in Congress and by the President of the United States, I shudder about the message that students are receiving.

Applying to college is an especially trying time. This year, anxiety about getting into college is ramped up by the isolation caused by the pandemic. Teens are social creatures, and the loss of so much of their social lives compounded by the fear of spreading and contracting the virus, have increased anxiety for high school seniors to much higher levels than I have seen in the past. So when factions of the U.S. government cannot admit that the president has lost the election, I worry. Just one more thing that can throw seniors into a tizzy.

What does the focus on not being able to accept a loss say to teens? It seems to me that it suggests that they won’t get over the disappointment of a college denial or deferral. Or that there was something fraudulent in the decision-making. Over and over, my colleagues and I, and the colleges themselves, have emphasized that the process does not come down to one factor or another – and that the volume of applications to a particular college or university may dictate that not everyone can be accepted there, as that volume can far outpace the number of spaces available in a freshman class.

When I keep hearing that despite court challenges and certifications of votes,  there still is a chorus that cannot accept the outcome of the general election, I worry that recalcitrance is sending a message to seniors that they won’t be able to accept the outcomes of their college applications. But they will.

So in addressing anxiety about getting into college, to high school seniors I say: You will come to terms – and most of you probably have already – to the disappointment. It’s not personal and it doesn’t mean that your lives will not be successful. On the contrary. I have seen over and over in my practice how happy students are at college, no matter where they enroll. In the end, despite Senator Hawley’s last ditch challenge to the certification of the Electoral College results, those results will be certified and the United States of America will move on to a brighter and better future. You will, too.