In an effort to cut the tension for 12th-grade students worried about applying to colleges and universities, Rutland High School hosted its third annual Senior Stress Relief Day on Thursday.
Marsha Cassel, a world languages teacher at the school, said the day was created as one of Rutland High School’s capstone projects by a senior who had studied the effects of standardized testing on young people all over the world.
“As an action plan, she thought it would be good to help relieve the stress students feel because they’re really, really anxious this time of year about their future and juggling their studies and getting their future plans and meeting early deadlines that are just nuts,” she said.
On Thursday, seniors who wanted to participate, with permission from the teachers whose classes they would normally attend during the school’s A, B and C blocks, came to the library where they could work together on college applications, ask teachers for help and advice on essays or talk to members of the guidance office about financial aid.
Later in the afternoon, Nikki Adams, from Rutland Recreation and Parks Department, led a yoga class in the school theater under low lights.
Cassel said an RHS senior class has about 200 students. On Thursday, about 40 to 60 students attended each block of the Stress Relief Day.
Maya Sobel, a 17-year-old senior, said she really valued the efforts to make applying to college easier.
“The application process is stressful but the Senior Stress Day really helped relieve my stress. It was stressing me out for a while because I didn’t know if I was in a good place or not to submit my application in two weeks,” she said.
Sobel would like to study biology and hopes to eventually go to medical school. She expects to go to college in New England and said she will probably submit four or five applications.
She said she and her friends were looking forward to Thursday all week.
“The only conversations we seem to have as seniors are, ‘What are you writing your essay on? Do you have any supplementals? Do you have this essay done? Do you have this deadline met?’ We’re just trying to figure out among each other, but we were also excited to be able to dedicate an entire day with knowledgeable and helpful people to help us create a better application for ourselves,” she said.
Jen Pros, chairwoman of the RHS guidance department, said the goal of the Senior Stress Relief Day was for students to have “help readily accessible to them.”
“It’s like a one-stop shop for assistance for anything to do with their applications, the college process, even if it’s just a matter of being so overwhelmed by the whole process,” she said.
Pros said the members of the Class of 2020 are applying all over the country. Some are interested in the University of Vermont or Castleton University, but others are looking at schools in Southern U.S. or as far west as California.
“These students are applying to highly selective schools including Harvard, Yale, Ivy League schools and schools that are within those type of very low acceptance rates all the way through to two-year technical schools,” Pros said.
Math teacher Karen Nawn-Fahey said her previous positions include assistant dean of admissions at Union College and director of college counseling at two prepatory schools. Taking a break from circulating among students, she said she has read “thousands of applications and essays.”
“I know what the readers, what the admissions people, are looking for in their essays. The English teachers can look at is it grammatically correct. I’m looking at, ‘Does it tell me something significant about you that I’m not going to find somewhere else? Is it a compelling story? Is it your voice that’s telling me something?’ Because that’s the opportunity in the essay,” she said.
Nawn-Fahey said she was pleased to find the English teachers at RHS were working with students so they would come into their senior year prepared to create an activity résumé and a college essay.
Rachel Pusateri, a library media specialist, said she was happy the students were using the library to come together and make plans for their future.
“It’s one of the functions of a modern library, to be a meetingplace, to be a community center where people can talk about ideas, share ideas, give feedback, work together as a group,” she said.
Pusateri said the library had the equipment from desk-top computers to WiFi access that allowed the students planning their college applications to do what they needed while the room was still able to function as a school library for the rest of the student body.
Pros pointed out that Thursday’s Senior Stress Relief Day was one event designed to help students pursue an interest in higher education but she said there would be other events, including similar assistance offered in the library on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for students on a drop-in basis, and representatives of colleges who will visit the high school during the year and a night during which students and parents can get help with financial-aid applications.