Stressed college students chews pencil
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Martin Center column highlights growth of student anxiety

Anthony Hennen of the Martin Center writes about student anxiety as the fall semester approaches.

College admissions is a different field than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. High school guidance counselors still help hundreds of students make a plan for after graduation. Students still try to get into the best college they can.

But they are now more cost-conscious, their families hire private college counselors, and they are much more anxious and stressed. Private high school counselors and college counselors both confront student anxiety more. Their jobs have expanded to deal with students anxious about the future.

Counselors disagree about the extent of the change and why students are more anxious. The type and causes of anxiety also differ depending on what type of college students attend. But higher education is devoting more time and money to student anxiety than in the recent past.

Private counselors have become much more notable since the Varsity Blues scandal, where wealthy parents turned to consultant Rick Singer to bribe colleges and get their children admitted.

When speaking with private counselors, though, they talk less about conquering the SAT and more about getting students to think about what they want in life.

Test prep, for instance, isn’t such a big emphasis anymore. As more universities go test-optional, what matters more is getting students to set goals and figure out which colleges fit them. Allen Koh, the CEO of Cardinal Education in California’s Silicon Valley, generally sees two clusters of students: Those who aim for elite schools and those who want to have a great college experience. But they don’t always know what they want.

“I think students are more rudderless than ever before because they have more freedom than ever before,” Koh said in a Martin Center interview. Students have so many options for college, with some applying to more than a dozen schools.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...