Three years later, anxiety still plagues students


Tracy Zhang

While freshmen have anxiety about starting in the high school, seniors face a different anxiety, deciding on a college and saying goodbye to high school.

Cam Hart, Editor-in-Chief

Three years ago, Erin Roy (12) was a freshman who was scared of seniors, teachers and derby day. Now as a senior, she has to face bigger challenges like standardized tests, college applications and finances and saying goodbye to St. Mary’s. 

“Freshman year, I was so worried about what other people thought about me in my school. Over the years, I grew more confident in being a high schooler, but now as a senior, it feels like there’s a lot more at stake,” Roy said. “We are expected to get ready to go to college, take standardized tests and have an amazing last year. That takes the anxiety to a whole new level.”

She’s not alone. 

Last October, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a declaration of a national emergency for children and adolescents’ mental health, citing significant increases in anxiety and depression resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Because young people spent so much time on their phones and social media during the pandemic, comparisons and false realities built even more anxiety. 

“Young people are bombarded with messages through the media and popular culture that erode their sense of self-worth — telling them they are not good-looking enough, popular enough, smart enough or rich enough,” wrote Dr. Murthy. 

For Grayson Finks (12), who has over 100,000 followers on TikTok, the eyes of strangers commenting on her posts feels uncomfortably similar to the eyes of strangers deciding if she can get into college.

“I feel like it’s the same judgment. They look at who we are on paper, and there is only so much colleges can evaluate us on,” Finks said. “It’s the exact same feeling of ‘these people don’t know who I am,’ and they are judging us on simple things.”

While college applications can create by making you feel like you’re engaged in a self-marketing scheme, they also are becoming more and more difficult to make distinct. With a rising pool of applicants, it feels like getting to college is contingent on a roll of the die. 

According to U.S. News and World Report, there are more college applicants than ever with a 21% increase since 2019. The chances of being admitted to your dream college are lower than they used to be. With Harvard University’s admission rate dropping from 5.2% to 4.5% and Wesleyan University’s 21% to 17.4% from 2020 to 2022, high school students are reasonable in being worried about likelihood of getting into certain schools. 

Going forward into this school year, seniors need to remember that an acceptance or a rejection is not targeting their self-worth. We need to prioritize mental health, and enjoy this last year we have with each other. Too much time is spent worrying about appearances, social media and college admittance. 

College is important. But this year is the last year we, as seniors, have with each other. So let’s let go of the anxiety we’ve been carrying since freshman year and the anxiety that’s come with senior year. Let senior year be the year we join together to lift each other up as we go through the traditions like the Christmas Pageant, milestones of getting into college and the extended closure of saying goodbye to the place we’ve known for years. 

If you or a classmate are struggling with anxiety, reach out to Upper School Guidance Counselor Ms. Poag, Assistant Chaplain Ms. Segars (‘05) or any other trusted adult.