Gen Z students from across the globe are increasingly internalizing the same harmful messages when it comes to college admission, school counselor Dominie Wilhite told attendees Friday at NACAC’s 75th National Conference in Louisville.
To an even greater extent than past generations, today’s young people believe grades, test scores, and application materials must be perfect to achieve their college dreams, noted Wilhite, who serves students at Ghidotti Early College High School (CA).
“There can be a sense that it’s really hard to succeed,” Wilhite said during a panel discussion focused on mental health and wellness in the college admission process.
That sentiment in and of itself is difficult to address. And it becomes even more problematic when considering the increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns reported by today’s high school and college students. Counselors tasked with helping students navigate the college admission process in such a climate have their work cut out for them, Wilhite said—a sentiment that was echoed by her fellow presenters.
More than ever before, counselors need to be mindful not only of the information they share with students, but also the way in which they do so.
“I think a lot of times, especially as a college counselor, I want to come in hot and tell them everything they need to do for that grade, for that semester, and I need to pull back and remind myself that there’s a larger conversation happening here,” said Casey Rowley, college counselor at Beverly Hills High School (CA). “Before I go into an admission applicant timeline and what supplementary materials they need to get, I want the students to be reminded of what their larger goals are.”
Setting long- and short-term goals—as well as breaking the college prep process into smaller, more manageable tasks—can help prevent students from feeling overwhelmed, Rowley said. Her school is also always on the lookout for ways to address the notion of college fit during classroom discussions.
“We have ‘College Mondays’ and we encourage the staff to talk about their college experience, reminding students there’s no one-size-fits-all,” she said.
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