College aspirants face pressure to do ‘impossible’

If there is a time of year when Hawaii’s ambitious high school seniors are especially mindful of the need to stand out, this is it.

Many have submitted or are finishing college applications, knowing that the competition to get into top schools is stiff. Some elite institutions accept less than 10 percent of their applicants.

The pressures on these high-aiming youth to stand out, especially if they come from expensive prep-school backgrounds, have fostered expectations that can be unrealistic and unhealthy, according to some youth mentors, academic counselors and others.

“It’s just an impossible task,” said Dana Leman, an executive with the Iowa-based nonprofit RandomKid, which works with youth on charity projects. “The bar is set higher and higher.”

In such an environment, some students can stretch the truth, experts say, though reliable data on resume padding is hard to come by.

Added Jeffrey Leiken, a California- based mentor for teens and young adults, “It is commonplace for kids to be encouraged by professionals to…

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