Former counselor says less stress for college admissions

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By Maya Shah, Photography Editor Each year, colleges nationwide receive more than 1 million applications sent by seniors anxiously awaiting a life-changing decision. For many, this process is a long and tiring one, requiring months of preparation. At Conestoga, this looks no different, creating stress for seniors during the application process. Former counselor Steve Becker...

By Maya Shah, Photography Editor

Each year, colleges nationwide receive more than 1 million applications sent by seniors anxiously awaiting a life-changing decision. For many, this process is a long and tiring one, requiring months of preparation. At Conestoga, this looks no different, creating stress for seniors during the application process.

Former counselor Steve Becker set out in hopes of limiting this stress. He created a website called Less High School Stress to provide high schoolers with meaningful resources that can help reduce the amount of stress surrounding college. During his 18 years at Conestoga, he got to see first-hand the harmful nature of the stress college could put onto high schoolers. 

“Our job as counselors was to help people understand that the options for where you can get a good education go well beyond the schools whose names are on the tips of everybody’s tongues,” Becker said. 

At Conestoga, the desire to attend elite schools is especially prevalent. Senior Ansh Goyal also attests to the competitive nature of Conestoga and its students, due to its rigorous course options and extracurricular opportunities. 

“I think it kind of makes (the admissions process) a lot more stressful because at Conestoga you’re so worried about where everyone else is going,” Goyal said. 

This stress also extends to course selection and the pressure to take advanced classes. Senior Saadhi Jakka notes that honors classes, as opposed to accelerated classes, are seen as the norm at Conestoga.

“That makes a lot of people feel like they’re not smart enough, even though if they went to another school they are,” Jakka said. 

Becker started working on his website in 2018, finishing little bits and pieces by fall. The final product, though, wasn’t advertised until 2020, when he started notifying administrators about his findings. Becker says that the goal of his site is to debunk the myth that there are only a few schools that can lead people to a happy and successful career.

“For the vast majority of people who are bright, hardworking and ambitious, you’re going to have a very bright future. I just want to make sure that everybody knows that,” Becker said.

Becker’s website presents many resources, including presentations on the harmful nature of admissions stress. However, the main resources are his lists, which are separated by career path. Each list shows where successful workers in the field attended college, ranging from business to arts management to law.

“You can see that people who attend schools that are not among the most selective are also getting jobs at the most desirable employers. You know, while you’re in high school, you don’t have to stress out about that,” Becker said. 

The process of forming these ideas into written resources took time. After brainstorming and researching, Becker finally settled on a comparison between the most selective schools and less selective schools, hoping to show that the quality of education is not much different. Becker said the lack of information currently available on the topic was one of his motivators.

“There’s not a whole lot of literature out there on it,” Becker said. “I think most of the important stuff is on my website; I wanted to make that accessible to people.” 


Maya Shah can be reached at [email protected]

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