data plot of aceptance rate by GPA and SAT/ACT test scoresStandardized Testing and Tips on Admissions
stressed teenCollege Planning Stresses Teens Out, But It Doesn't Have To

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

At a reading of Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig, an in-depth personal account of the British author’s major depressive disorder, writer Elitsa Dermendzhiyska was surprised to hear that most of Haig’s fan mail came from 13-year-olds.¹ This informal data would have come as no surprise to journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis,² author of The Good News About Bad Behavior, who opens her book with the statistic that “one in two children will develop a mood or behavioral disorder or a substance addiction before age eighteen.” She notes that this statistic does not represent a rise in diagnosis, but “an actual change in children.” The crux of the problem as she sees it? A decreasing ability to self-regulate. “Children today are fundamentally different from past generations,” she writes. “They truly have less self-control. Simply put, we face a crisis of self-regulation.”

From the work of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris,³ we also know that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) lead to increased health risks in adulthood — up to triple the lifetime risk of heart disease and lung cancer, for example. While the model for ACEs from the CDC study names specific criteria (physical, emotional, sexual abuse; physical or emotional neglect; parental mental illness, substance abuse, incarceration; parental separation or divorce; or domestic violence), I think it is fair and accurate to say that 21st-century teenhood as a whole has become an ACE for any teen who dreams of succeeding as a thriving professional adult with a rewarding life. For an expanded treatment of this topic, please see my article, 21st-Century Teenhood and Toxic Stress.

My concern, based on observation afforded by a decade as a private college planner and another near-decade of university teaching, is that American teens are alarmingly underprepared for the challenges of adulthood, and they know it. The adults in their lives, however, seem not to be paying attention or unable to provide remedies, if they are — even as their children’s adulthood portends to be much less safe and structured than theirs. No wonder 13-year-olds are writing to Matt Haig.

How does today’s college admissions process further compound this situation? Find out more here.

  1. Dermendzhiyska, Elitsa. (2018). I Left My Cushy Job to Study Depression. Here’s What I Learned. Medium. Retrieved from:
  2. Lewis, Katherine Reynolds. (2018). The Good News About Bad Behavior [iBook version]. Retrieved from
  3. Harris, Nadine Burke. (2014, September). How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. [Video file]. Retrieved from

Free Workbook for Students

Blue Stars College Planning Foundations Workbook

Start today! Go through these strategic exercises to help you sketch out your plans for all four years of high school.

  • Learn key traits important to top colleges.
  • Write your first personal narrative
  • Branch out, exploring interests and defining activities.
  • Set goals and create your 4-year college planning timeline.

Fill out the form to get the workbook.

About the Author: Amy Morgenstern

Dr. Amy Morgenstern, affectionately known as Dr. M, is the founder and CEO of Blue Stars Admissions Consulting. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and an MFA in contemporary art. A former professor of philosophy, honors program associate director, and assistant to the director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Dr. M brings a wealth of academic and multicultural experience to her practice.

Resources to help teens and their families navigate the college admission process



Live Webinars

Our collection of stories, interviews, and tips provides insight and strategies to navigate the complex college planning and application process.

Learn, be inspired, and cultivate personal growth. From campus tours to interviews with former Blue Start students, choose the video that resonates with your personal journey.

Join us in our next webinar about college prep and other college related themes.

Make the college application process less stressful and more successful

Start early.

Find out how we can help