Managing Stress While Planning for the Future


Sarah Walsh

With hours of writing, dozens of meetings and interviews, and days and days of tours and seminars, the college application is an overwhelming process for most seniors. For seniors at Emerson Junior-Senior High School, “back to school season” means college applications – and a peak into their near futures. 


Because it is such a daunting task, many seniors try to get an early start. “Freshman year I started looking into colleges, but I didn’t really get serious until probably midway through junior year” said senior Olivia Piserchia.


Starting the process early can help to counterbalance some of the anxiety that comes with college applications. Kelly Riedel, EJSHS Director of School Counseling, notes that the college application process for counselors starts during their students’ freshman years. 


The counseling department typically focuses on administering personality and interest tests during a student’s freshman year, ultimately introducing them to the thought of life past high school. 


“It truly is a four year process. On our end, it’s making sure we can communicate as much as possible with the students at appropriate times” said Riedel. 


The college application ‘season’ is typically viewed as a high-stress environment not just for students, but for administrators as well. Riedel describes her stress levels as an ‘8’ on a 1-10 scale. 


“It’s happening when we’re all getting back to school which sometimes is a slow start, but in counseling, it can be busy because of the college process,” said Riedel. Riedel also notes the difficulty of balancing the application process with welcoming seventh graders to the school and highlighting the beginning of the “Four Year Plan” for freshmen. 


The college application process does not look the same for everyone, however. For senior Natalie Graham, the college application process is nearly over. Graham committed to East Stroudsburg University to play Division II softball during the summer before her senior year. 


“It was a good match academically and athletically,” said Graham. Although her college application process differed from that of a non-athlete’s Graham still noted times of stress. She recalled feeling anxious about whether a coach had seen her emails or even liked her. 


The college application process can very quickly become overwhelming, but many find solace in each other. It can be comforting to know that other seniors are also feeling stress. 


“Definitely just reach out to other people, just know that most seniors are going through this right now and everyone’s stressed about it,” said Piserchia. 


Piserchia, Graham, and Riedel all highlight the importance of stress management. “I have two kids so once I get home I try to take off my counseling hat and be a mom,” Riedel said. “Watching their sporting events and those sorts of things are ways I destress.”


Only time will tell where the EHS class of 2023 seniors will spend their next four years. And in a matter of months, the application process will start all over again for our counselors and future seniors. “You just have to remember that there’s a school for everyone” said Graham.