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Afraid to Go to College
Q: I'm an 18-year-old who's both excited and nervous about planning for college. I sometimes get so stressed out that it feels like someone is strangling me. Everyone around me thinks I'm a great student and that nothing is wrong, but my anxiety is really starting to affect me. Sometimes an attack will start out of nowhere. I don't feel I can talk to my parents or anyone else about this problem. What should I do?
A: The anxiety that you are experiencing is quite normal. Many graduating high school seniors begin to have anxieties about whether they will be able to succeed in college. Some of these anxieties may also be about leaving the familiarity of your home, family, and friends. You are moving from a very secure sense of who you are and what you can do into the college world of the unknown. Your fears are probably heightened because everyone is assuming that you can't wait to get to college and that you will continue to be the great student that you have always been.
So many kids in your position keep their fears and anxieties to themselves. Opening up to your friends and family about these anxieties will help you, I assure you. Don't think that you will disappoint your family or that your friends will think less of you if you acknowledge these intense feelings. Keeping these feelings inside will only contribute to more frequent bouts of anxiety. I have counseled many graduating seniors who experienced the same anxieties that you are feeling. Every one of the seniors that I counseled felt like a great burden had been lifted off of them once we began to talk about their anxieties.
Consider a few sessions with a therapist. Don't cheat your parents out of an opportunity to understand and support you during this very confusing time in your life. Please write me back once you have begun to talk about your feelings to someone. I will look forward to your letter, whatever you decide.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.