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Are You a Stressed Graduate?

Are You a Stressed Graduate?

So, you’re almost there. You’ve made it to your senior year of high school, and by all indications, you will be graduating. You’ve worked hard, hopefully had a lot of fun, and now anxiety about the future sets in. All around you people are talking about testing and prep classes, grades, scores, and AP tests. They’re talking about colleges and scholarships and financial aid and what they want to major in. And while all this is going on around you, you’re feeling lost, confused, scared, and stressed out.

Do not fret. You are not alone. Throughout your lifetime, there will be periods of transitioning from one stage of life to the next. These will always be the most stressful times in your life. They can also be the most exciting. Think about the transition of being single to married, or a married couple becoming first-time parents. Those can all be considered stressful times, but also new and exciting and life altering. So, too, can this transition from high school student to young adult be all of those things for you.

So how can you navigate through all of this madness without losing your mind? How do you figure out what is right for you? How can you manage the stress and still enjoy your last year of high school and have fun? It’s not as hard as you might think. Here are some tips for how to make it through all of the chaos and make the decisions that are best for you.

  • First and foremost, remember that you are an individual. There is no one-size-fits-all for life. While others might be putting pressure on themselves to get high test scores, take AP classes, and go to top colleges, that isn’t necessarily what is right for you.
  • Let your passions and strengths guide you. Not everyone is meant to be an engineer. Not everyone can be an artist or a musician. I believe that by now, you have some idea of what your strengths, interests, and talents are. Let them guide you. Find your own pathway to success, no matter how traditional or non-traditional that might be.
  • If high test scores matter to you, then by all means, take a prep class. Budget your time so that you can still maintain your grades, work on test prep, and enjoy life.
  • If test scores don’t matter to you, then don’t waste your time, money, or stress on taking a prep class. Take the tests and see how you do, but don’t stress about them one bit.
  • According to the US Department of Education, the total number of 4 year degree granting institutions is 2364. This doesn’t even count 2 year colleges, trade school, and other options. Chances are, if you want to further your education, you can find a college or trade school to attend.
  • More and more colleges and universities are not requiring testing at all, or at least allowing you to choose which test to take–the SAT or the ACT. If you excel at one more than the other, take that one. If you don’t wish to test at all, or don’t have high scores, your life is not over. You will still have plenty of options.
  • You are still young, and you might not know yet exactly what you want to be when you grow up. But if you at least have an idea about what area or field interests you, let that guide you. Think about future career opportunities and how to best to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to be an artist, even though you might be able to get into a top college, does that program really help you achieve your career goals as much as attending an art school geared towards preparing you and helping you transition into a career?
  • If your family is pressuring you to follow a path that doesn’t resonate with you, try not to yell and scream and argue. Make an effort to have a calm, rational, and mature conversation about what your goals and desires really are. When expressed appropriately, your parents are more likely to be able to hear what you are saying. If they still can’t, try asking your school counselor to help you out.
  • Not everyone goes to college right after high school, or ever. Some people take a gap year or enter the work force or take some classes while also working. If this is possible for you, it is something to consider. Maybe you’re not ready to go right into a 4 year college. That is okay. The beautiful thing is that college is always there, and there are many paths you can follow to end up there, whenever, however, and wherever it is right for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn. You can try something and fail at it, and then try something else. This is always true in life. It doesn’t make you a failure. As a matter of fact, most successful people can attest to having failed many times along the way.

At the end of the day, you are becoming a young adult. It is time for you to take some control over you own decisions and your own future. Seek whatever guidance you need from parents, counselors, and others, and follow your gut. Your path is unique, and only you know what that might be. If you make a wrong turn somewhere along the way, turn around and go a different way. Eventually, you will arrive at your destination.

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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