By Ethan Penland, Director of Admissions Services
2 minute read
World Mental Health Day was October 10th, which makes this a great time to discuss a topic that we continue to recognize, to a degree, as taboo.
What would you expect the percentage of Americans who experienced moderate to high levels of stress over the last month to be? Maybe 20%? What about 30%? Or maybe 50%?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a whopping 75% of Americans fit the bill (go ahead and count me in the statistic).
Ready for another eye-opening statistic? Again, according to the APA, stress is the number one health concern for teenagers in high school.
So, if the vast majority of us are stressed, and so are the students we are serving, why are we not addressing it?
Luckily, we have a society that is warming up to letting us share our experiences and struggles, but as leaders in enrollment management, or as admissions counselors in the recruitment field, are we being intentional with our messaging to express support and the best interest of the students when it comes to mental health? Are we validating that the college search is, without a doubt, one of the hardest decisions a student will make while as a teenager? Are we empathizing with their anxieties and stresses that are influencing their decisions, or lack thereof?
I believe it is time to accept that mental health concerns are not going away any time soon, so let’s get ahead of it by acknowledging these areas of stress before students get to us.
I have seen a couple of schools begin sending their prospective students information about resources on campus that address mental health. This is exceptional if you ask me, but we need to consider taking it a few steps further.
- Validate and Empathize. Explain to students why the college search process is stressful, that is it not uncommon to feel stressed or anxious, and that even though you are not in their shoes, you are recognizing and empathize how impactful it is on students who you are supporting through the process.
- Provide Authenticity. Do you have passionate staff members within departments impacting mental health, or do you have current students who have taken advantage of these services and are willing to share their stories? The inclusion of these individuals in your information sessions or communications can provide relatability.
- Bridge the gaps. For students who have expressed mental health concerns, along with interest in your school, work to establish a hand-off program to those individuals within the resource areas on campus. That way, once admitted or confirmed, they can begin establishing relationships and comfort before arriving on campus.
- Create a campaign. Rather than a single message or workshop, consider building out entire campaigns around acknowledging the stressors of exploring colleges, applying to colleges, committing to colleges, acclimating to college, or any topics you identify that apply to supporting and eliminating common stressors.
At the end of the day, we all want to be the best versions of ourselves, but when occupied with stress, we can feel inadequate or incapable of meeting that version.
Students are trying to showcase their best version of themselves to us in enrollment management, but they are struggling with doing so. So, let’s stop expecting that students should be primed and ready for the college search process. Let’s acknowledge how stressful it truly is, normalize their feelings, and begin to see how we can humanize their experiences.
If you found this helpful, pass it along to someone you believe could benefit from reading it. If you would like to chat further on the topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter to carry on the conversation. Take care of your students, but, especially, take care of yourselves.