A parent asked me, "How do you get through the college admissions process without going crazy?"

She talked about the stress she was feeling and the anxiety her daughter was expressing because she was trying to juggle college applications, homework, extracurricular activities, test preparation, social life and family time. The mom shared that the tension at her home was at an all-time high and no one was happy about it.

>Why is it so stressful?

Between anxious parents and grandparents as well as Facebook, texting and real-time conversations, it's hard for high school seniors to escape from dealing with applying to college. Students know where their peers are applying and their GPAs and test scores.

Many students feel pressured to be accepted to the "right" schools. It's not unheard of for stronger students not to apply to colleges because they feel they'd be taking away a slot from a friend who really wants to attend that college. Students frequently feel that they have to find colleges that no one else is applying to. This is one of the reasons students are applying to so many more colleges today.

The admissions process is also stressful because so much about how the decisions are made is unknown. Roughly 80 percent of applicants to all colleges and universities have what it takes to be accepted. That means that their grades and test scores are in the range of what the college has accepted in the past. But very few of the "right" schools accept 80 percent of their applicants. The middle 50 percent SAT scores for the Ivy League schools (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Yale) range from 640 to 800 (scale of 200-800). And even though 80 percent of the students applying have scores that fall within those ranges, the schools still only accept 7 percent to 18 percent, which means they are rejecting up to 93 percent of the applicants.

So I'm hoping parents and children will both be a little more compassionate as you journey through this process.


Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit