College Pressure: Moving Beyond the ‘What’s Next?’ Mindset

As colleges begin to release early application decisions, the question of ‘what’s next?’ becomes increasingly relevant for the Class of 2018. Sean Logan, Dean of College Counseling, said ninety-one percent of Seniors this year applied to colleges through early applications.

After joining the College Counseling Office (CCO) seven years ago, Logan has been working with his team of twelve college counselors to create an environment that counters the mindset of ‘what’s next.’ The CCO hopes that students will focus on the opportunities that Andover can give them outside of the realm of college admissions.

Logan said a large part of the CCO’s efforts focuses on building a partnership between the CCO and the Office of Admission.

James Ventre, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “[Are] college admissions important? Absolutely, but that is not our only goal. College is important, but what is most important is what our students do after college, and that is a guiding force of the Andover experience.”

“Ventre and his staff have been really good about pushing back and saying ‘Look, our students certainly go to good colleges, but I also want you to know that coming to Andover doesn’t guarantee anything later on… Also, there are many many good colleges out there,’ ” said Logan.

Ethan Chen ’21 said future college admission opportunities influenced his decisions to apply to Andover.

“If I excelled and was in the top one percent of my old school somewhere in Hong Kong, as compared to be being in the top twenty percent at a school like Andover, what are my chances of standing out? There’s a lot of pros and cons when in comes to thinking about coming to Andover,” said Chen.

He continued, “I think… at the end of the day, it’s most important to do your best. Andover provides the tools you need to do well in the future, and it depends on how well you use the tools that Andover gives you.”

In the past seven years, the number of college counselors has increased from six to twelve. Meetings with students have also started earlier in a students’ four years. Through partnerships with Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion (EBI) programs, Advising groups, and the Alumni Development Office, Logan hopes that the school will increase its outreach to younger grades.

Logan said that the school could improve on dedicating time to college counseling events that do not conflict with students’ commitments.

“The more we get a chance to interact with students, the more we can pull back the pressure that comes with [college acceptance] being such a public issue… It would be really nice to have some focused time where we could bring down the temperature a little bit more,” said Logan.

Discussions of college go beyond students and also extend to parents and guardians.

“[A large part of college counseling] is about educating families to give the message that this is a much easier process… Having parents understand that their kids need to know that they will be excited no matter where their student goes to college can help bring down that pressure,” said Logan.

Logan recognized that much of college pressure stems not only from parents but also from peers, and that dorm environments make it difficult for students to stay open-minded and positive about college.

Logan said, “There are thousands of great kids that don’t get into schools, and how do you help a student deal with that disappointment? That’s one of those life skills that we talk a lot about, but the problem is, when you get a lot of kids in a dorm who haven’t faced a lot of that [disappointment], how do they react? How do the younger underclassmen see that?”

Megane Bantefa ’19 said conversations with classmates and friends often create a lot of stress.

“I think it’s definitely peers and friends who bring up the college [conversations]. I feel like [after] every grade we get, we think and we stress. Everytime we get a grade back and it’s not what we wanted, we stress and think about how this is going to affect my application,” she said.

On the other hand, Bantefa also noted that, since coming to Andover, she started to focus more on her experience here.

“When I applied to Andover, I was thinking about college definitely, and I still am, but more and more I start thinking about the experiences I have. I do things that I’m passionate about,” said Bantefa.

Logan said, “Don’t overlook this place. That’s a message that we’re constantly trying to convey in the College Counseling Office. But we understand that there are a lot of outside forces, and we also want to focus on how we deal with those.”