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3 Quintessential Skills To Help Your Teen Thrive in College As teens continue to face increased anxiety around academic achievement and other parts of their life, here are three things we can do as parents to equip them with the skills they need to thrive.

By Mary Banks Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • As our youth face mounting anxiety, it's time to confront the harsh realities of academic pressure and social media saturation.
  • Let's equip our youth with resilience, remind them of their inherent worth and guide them toward meaningful connections that transcend the digital realm.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Gen Z is being dubbed the most anxious generation, with 1 in 2 struggling with daily anxiety. This alarming trend stems from a multitude of factors, chief among them what some call "pressure cooker schools" that put considerable academic pressure on students. From the relentless pursuit of top grades to the race for impressive extracurriculars and coveted spots in prestigious universities, our youth has an almost palpable sense of unease. According to the London School of Economics, this pressure is detrimental to their well-being and is exacerbated by heightened parental pressure.

As parents, it's our job to recognize and address the toll this takes on our children's mental well-being before they reach adulthood. While we may dream of seeing our children excel academically and socially, it's equally important to equip them with the resilience and optimism necessary to navigate life's challenges they'll inevitably face in college and beyond.

As the Director of Admissions Consulting at Quad Education, I've witnessed this college anxiety firsthand, which is why our mission extends beyond academic achievement. We prioritize the holistic well-being of our students, guiding them toward a healthy perspective on success and failure. Considering this, here are three quintessential skills we believe are essential for today's youth to thrive in college.

1. Embracing failure and rejection

Anxiety often springs from the dread of failure, a formidable hurdle in the quest for personal growth. To thrive, our children must embrace rejection as a valuable part of their journey. Contrary to popular belief, failure isn't a dead end but a stepping stone to resilience and achievement. It's vital that we convince our teens that failure is not only normal but also essential for building strength and character.

I recently had a conversation with Erick Mueller, Executive Director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado, Boulder. He stressed the importance of hands-on learning and proactive problem-solving in nurturing resilience and independence among today's teens. Mueller urges a shift away from the fear of failure and toward an entrepreneurial mindset of innovation and perseverance. His advice is refreshingly simple: encourage kids to break free from the passive grip of technology and dive into the action. In an era where screens often hold more allure than real-world experiences, it's all too easy for our youth to remain spectators rather than active participants. By guiding students towards activities that stretch their limits, support their passion projects and encourage them to take risks, we can empower them to see failure as a valuable teacher rather than a setback. What we need are bold youngsters who press on in the face of adversity, refusing to let setbacks define them.

Related: The Most Innovative Leaders Use These 3 Mental Models to Unlock Their Best Ideas

2. Separating academic achievement from self-worth

When we talk about the impact of failure, it's crucial to also address how students perceive their self-worth in relation to their academic performance. There's a prevailing misconception that a student's value hinges solely on their grades or the prestige of the colleges they attend or don't attend. This notion suggests that only those who secure spots in Ivy League institutions are intelligent, capable of success and deserving of recognition. However, this belief couldn't be further from the truth.

In recent years, we've witnessed a noticeable decline in college acceptance rates, with Ivy League schools accepting as little as 3% of their applicants. This doesn't mean that there's a lack of qualified candidates; there is simply a lack of seats.

While it's important to encourage academic excellence for intellectual growth and future opportunities, it's equally crucial to remind our children that their worth extends far beyond their academic achievements or the name of the college they attend. No single institution or accomplishment defines their identity. True success lies in embracing their individual talents, passions and contributions to the world. It's these unique qualities that shape their identity and pave the path to fulfillment and impact.

Related: Younger Americans Don't Necessarily Want to Retire in Florida — and the 2 Affordable States at the Top of Their List Might Surprise You

3. Detaching from social media

Detaching from social media poses a significant challenge, especially for today's youth, who are deeply consumed by it. This reliance on social media is undeniably contributing to the collective anxiety experienced by Gen Z. In our current reality, where fake news and carefully curated posts blur the lines between truth and fiction, teenagers often find themselves trapped in a cycle of comparison, where their self-worth is measured by likes, followers and virtual validation.

This paradoxical relationship with social media has created a troubling sense of disconnection from others and reality. While the endless stream of online personas consumes them, they're simultaneously detached from genuine connections and meaningful experiences in the real world. We must empower them to break free from this curated online existence and rediscover the value of authentic connections and experiences offline.

Fostering a sense of self-worth that isn't tied to online metrics can help them build resilience and confidence rooted in their own intrinsic value. To help them do this, we must encourage them to seek balance in their relationship with social media, appreciating its benefits while also prioritizing genuine interactions and experiences beyond the screen. By guiding them toward a healthier approach to social media, we can help them reclaim control over their well-being and find fulfillment in the richness of real-life connections that have so much more to offer.

Related: 8 Ways to Minimize Screen Time and Maximize Family Time

Final thoughts

As our youth face mounting anxiety, it's time to confront the harsh realities of academic pressure and social media saturation. Let's equip our youth with resilience, remind them of their inherent worth and guide them toward meaningful connections that transcend the digital realm. It's a call to action for a generation in need of genuine human connection and inner perseverance and we parents must strive to lead this transformation.

Mary Banks

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Director of Admissions Consulting, Quad Education Group

Mary Banks is the Director of Admissions Consulting at Quad Education Group and has worked for 40 years in the higher education industry. Mary has served as the Director of Admissions at the Columbia School of Nursing and Associate Director of Admissions at the Columbia School of Business.

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