Dealing with Stress as a Teenager

Teenagers are stressed. And pressured. And anxious. And overwhelmed.

According to a recent study, 45 percent of teenagers in the US are stressed “all the time.” And though anxiety levels have risen in teens across all backgrounds, it has risen more among teens in affluent areas.

In an essay for Philly magazine, Tom McGrath explores the idea that “it’s the kids with the seemingly endless opportunities who are most anxious about their futures.”

He talks with his daughter’s friend Paige about where her anxiety comes from.

“A lot of it stems from the idea of the ideal student or the ideal college applicant,” she said. “You have to donate to the homeless and be an astrophysicist and have a five-point-thousand GPA.”

Paige said that she has high expectations because of the advantages she has.

“I think I feel an internal pressure to do something great, to use my education to do something great, like cure cancer. Do something for the greater good, since I’ve been given this leg up. I think that’s where I feel the need to excel and get all As,” she told McGrath.

Colleen Philbin, the director of counseling and program development for the nonprofit Speak Up, said it’s important for parents to remind their stressed students that they are still kids. Their brains are still developing.

“There’s so much preparation for adulthood right now,” Philbin said. “The life of a young person isn’t really about being the best young person you can be anymore, the best teenager you can be. The job of a kid is to be a good kid. Some of that’s lost on us right now.”

Paige admits that it is lost on her.

“A lot of people say, ‘Live every day like it’s your last,’” she said. “And I’m like, if this was my last day, would I be doing any of this? No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be with the people I’m with. I wouldn’t be sitting in the classes I’m in, probably. But it’s like, okay, you have to follow the path.”

Read McGrath’s full essay and explore NACAC’s resources for coping with anxiety in the college admission process.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at

2 thoughts on “Dealing with Stress as a Teenager”

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful article. The link to McGrath’s essay does not work. Can you send a new link to her essay to me? thank you

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