Author: Sydney Padula

High school seniors apply to more colleges, hope to get in

It’s a process that we remember all too well. In the fall of my senior year of high school, there was a sense of dread and of relief when I hit “submit” on each of my college applications. Dread, because of the potential news to come. Relief, because, “Thank [insert preferred higher power here] I didn’t have to write another essay.”

The graduating class of 2015 is going to hit “submit” on more college applications than ever. Over the last few years, the number of colleges a high school student applies to has been on the rise. It used to be that six was not unusual, and even ten was not unheard of. To nervous high school students now, those numbers belongs in the minor leagues.

And why not? The Common Application has made applying to multiple schools convenient, and the tough economy has sent students on a scavenger hunt for scholarships and financial aid to fit high tuition within their means. On the surface, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for high school students to up the number of applications.

Beyond more convenience and an increase in need for financial aid, plain old fear could be the biggest factor. College becomes more difficult to get into each year. As a result, kids panic and think that they need to apply more places to ensure an acceptance somewhere. Then, the surplus of applications actually just draws acceptance rates even lower, making next year’s students even more panicked. It is a downward spiral.

This fall, there were many stories of kids applying to 20, even 30 schools. However, with such high numbers of applications, the question becomes one of quality versus quantity. In this case, it appears that quality trumps quantity. Some college-bound seniors have the notion that more applications mean better odds of acceptance.

College counselor Lisa Sohmer says that when kids file over 20 applications, many of them have loaded on lots of very competitive schools. She, along with many others, feels that it is more beneficial to carefully select a smaller list of schools and get serious about them. Many colleges are generally eager for more applications for a variety of reasons. Higher numbers of applications mean they are ranked higher in the annual “best college” rankings.

As a result, “demonstrated interest” – tiny indications of how badly a student wants to attend – has become a vital part of a student’s application. Visits, contact with an admissions counselor or even filling out a card at college night give colleges an idea of a potential student’s interest. To be a strong applicant, you must demonstrate sincere interest, which is just not possible to do for twenty schools.

At the end of the day, many college counselors say that they do not encourage students to apply to a host of schools. It has reached a level in many high schools where the administration is considering putting a cap on the number of applications a student can send out.

Brandon Kosatka, a director of student services in Alexandria, Va., said, “The kids who try to game the system just end up getting played in the end.” The system is just too large to be manipulated.

Sydney Padula ’17 padulas@stolaf.edu is from Barrington, Ill. She majors in history.

Graphic Credit: ERIN KNADLER/MANITOU MESSENGER

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A syndrome for religious trauma? Yes, apparently.

A Salon news article claims the existence of a condition called Religious Trauma Syndrome, which is characterized by feelings of isolation, fear and self-loathing caused by a person’s religious beliefs. This new term was coined by Marlene Winell to name a set of symptoms some people experienced after exposure to a toxic religious environment or the trauma of leaving a religion. The teachings of conservative sects of Christianity such as Evangelicals and Mormons are supposedly the origin of Religious Trauma Syndrome. Is it possible that a person’s religious beliefs can be detrimental to his or her mental health? The answer, apparently, is yes.

Certain behaviors and thought processes can have a negative effect on our well-being. For example, it is often said that complaining is addictive. The human brain falls into cycles of negativity that have a detrimental affect on our view on the world. If someone complains all of the time, that person is failing to see the good things that are surrounding him or her.

These cycles of thought are also present when one is practicing a specific religion. When one is at church, a youth group or any other sort of religious gathering one discusses the issues, but is often told how and what to think.

Many conservative sects of Christianity have very strict views of the world. They have strong moral guidelines that they have their members follow. Some of the practices can have harmful effects on those participating. There is also a strong hierarchy in these types of denominations that can give children a non-progressive view of the world. Many teach in such a way that places God over men, and men superior to women and children. This sense of subordination for women and children can hinder self-image and cause feelings of helplessness.

Some conservative sects promote separatism in order to maintain spiritual purity. Some Evangelical Christians warn against developing relationships with non-believers. This makes their worlds very small and teaches unquestioning obedience rather than curiosity and exploration.

I discussed negativity as a psychologically detrimental habit. Fear ranks with negativity in causing cycles of psychological discomfort. Extremely conservative Christians fear sin, hell and a looming apocalypse. Since their religion is the only alternative to these terrors, any sort of threat to the group – such as criticism or scientific findings – becomes fearful as well.

Children are the main subjects of concern when it comes to mental health after indoctrination. Children’s minds are highly susceptible to religious ideas and, as a result, many religious groups target young kids. Much of the brain’s growth and development happens after birth, which means that children are vulnerable to influences from others at a young age. Before age seven, children are unable to think abstractly. As a result, they often believe everything they are told to.

Though this condition is related to other kinds of chronic trauma, it is more mind-twisting. The logic of religion is circular and blames victims for their problems with the religious group. Religious Trauma Syndrome is especially hard to recognize for two reasons. First of all, the nature of trauma by definition is not as obvious as a physical beating. Second, trauma is veiled by the respectability of the religion itself.

I am a firm supporter of religious freedom and the idea that all have the right to teach and practice any religious doctrines they so desire. However, from a mental health standpoint, there are certain lifestyles that are more healthful than others. Just as there are harmful effects of any negative thought cycle, there are obvious repercussions to some extremely conservative Christian doctrines.

Sydney Padula ’17 padulas@stolaf.edu is from Barrington, Ill. She majors in English and History.

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Proposed SGA Constitution changes put to the vote