With more teens on the college track, schools have become more selective because they've got so many more applicants. That stresses students out more because they are constantly searching for ways to stand out, or as Arbir says, "beef up their 'resumes.' "
Minniti, from Fremd, said students there have always been highly competitive, but in recent years she has seen more students allow the college admissions checklist to become the driving force behind their choices on which activities to pursue.
Minniti says school faculty begin talking about such checklists freshman year so students know what is expected, but some students take it to the extreme.
"If it says a college values participation in clubs or sports, they think that means they have to be in every single thing that's offered," she said. "I try to tell them just to choose what they are interested in and excel at them, but some of them, it's like they can't hear me."
Minniti said she does her best to tailor her approach to each student she sees struggling with his or her course load and resulting anxiety, noting there isn't a single approach that will resonate with students. Part of her job is to ask questions about the student's goals and to offer feedback with possible paths to meet them.
"I don't want to be a dream-crusher, but I also don't want them to be like, 'No one told me getting into Harvard was crazy difficult,' " Minniti said.