Senior Year Stress: The Impact of a High School Senior Year Interrupted.

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Right about now, they’d be practicing their procession toward the stage with the school band. Right about now, they’d be planning a “senior cut day” to the beach. Right about now, they’d be anxiously awaiting dorm assignments, planning backyard graduation parties, spending time with lifelong friends from whom they’d soon be separated.

“I expected to be stressed, but stressed about the good things,” Dunbar High School senior De’Asia Scott observed to WTOP radio in Washington, D.C. “But in reality, I’m stressed about the same thing that everybody else is stressed about.”

That would be COVID-19, the destroyer of plans for America’s high school seniors. As the spring transitioned to summer, the coronavirus graduated from a threat that disrupted school schedules to one that is forcing students to rethink the first steps of their new lives.

Those who choose not to go the college route will soon enter a job market with unemployment levels not seen since the Great Depression. Entire industries are shut down across the country — some poised to reopen this summer, but with the specter of a fall coronavirus resurgence looming large.

That prospect hasn’t been lost on the nation’s soon-to-be university freshmen. With higher-ed institutions already announcing remote or hybrid semesters in the fall, the odds of completing an uninterrupted term in person are clearly in doubt.

In a Carnegie Dartlett survey of 2,800 high school seniors, 33% said they’d defer or cancel their admission if classes were going to be held remotely. They want the college experience of their dreams – one where they’ll meet new friends, live away from their parents and enjoy all that campus life offers – and aren’t willing to sacrifice it for another indefinite string of months doing Zoom meetings. The idea of a gap year has even gained support with many parents, who are skeptical of paying full tuition for virtual learning.

High stress. High stakes.

The decisions today’s seniors face are difficult and carry great consequences. Not surprisingly, the emotions they’re experiencing are being shared across the globe.

According to research commissioned by Cluey Learning, 90 percent of Australian seniors reported feeling stressed by this year’s school disruptions, with a majority finding it even more troubling than typical teen factors like friendship pressures, family issues and body image concerns.

“The class of 2020 are under enormous pressure, and it’s understandable that their study is being impacted,” Cluey Chief Learning Officer Dr. Selina Samuels said. “But this is a unique opportunity for senior students to build resilience by learning how to manage their stress. If students can adapt to these changing circumstances, they’ll find that not only do they have a brilliant story to tell during interviews, but that they’ll approach everything else in life with just a little more confidence.”

Kids don’t need to go it alone. There’s help – and hope.

Certainly the only thing we know for sure right now is that the future is even more unpredictable than ever. But as Dr. Samuels acknowledged, the challenges that this year’s high school seniors face can also serve as opportunities to build emotional resilience and practice healthy self-care principals – two goals that are very possible thanks to new and refocused mental health and wellness resources available through federal, and local organizations.

For schools in the STOPit Solutions community, STOPit offers a Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Center containing an easy-to-search database of thousands of articles, studies, video, audio and other content that can help school administrators assist with today’s elevated teen stress levels. The content is carefully curated by top experts in SEL-related fields and can be shared with individual students or broadcast to the full student body through the STOPit app.

In light of current events, STOPit is also offering a number of free and paid webinars, videos, and SEL resources on its website to aid educators in engaging with students. To view this content, visit https://stopitsolutions.com/covid-19/.

 

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