What's Inside the Package?

Remember what really counts when applying to college.

The buzzword in marketing today is packaging, and it even describes high school students applying to college. Take it from me, the mother of a junior and a freshman, kids spend a lot of high school worrying about their resumes. Never mind how many AP college-level courses they're taking. Will they break 1500 on the SATs? Do they have the right extracurricular activities and internships? Is she a nationally ranked tennis player? Has he founded a The college application process can be a cynical exercise in credential-collecting. Even Harvard admissions officials worry that too many of the applicants they see are showing signs of burnout.

Many of our young people are coached by consultants and tutors from the time they're in diapers, pressured from first grade to excel in a sport or develop a special talent that will get them into the "right" college, and deprived of family time and relaxation. According to

"Time Out or Burn Out,"


a paper published last month by Harvard admissions officials, our young people are growing up to resemble "dazed survivors of some bewildering life-long boot-camp."

Two studies published in last month's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology tracked anxiety in thousands of children from 1952 to 1993. They found that the


American child in the 1980s and early '90s reported more anxiety than did

child psychiatric patients

in the 1950s--and documented a significantly large increase in anxiety among college students.

Is this what we think of as a successful life for our children, and is it worth the price? The college application and waiting period offers an unparalleled opportunity for parents and kids to talk openly, often for the first time, about the spiritual struggles we encounter throughout our adult lives. How do we hold on to an awareness of joy in the present moment when we are striving to fulfill our ambitions? How do we develop our God-given talents without sacrificing our relationships and our values? What does it really mean to be "in the world and not of it"? Here are six questions to help turn the precollege period into a time of spiritual growth for your teen and yourself.

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