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The College Process is NUTS! PERMA Can Help

Why is the college process so potentially stressful?

Dr. Sonia Lupien, the director of the Center for Studies on Human Stress, coined the NUTS acronym. For anything to be truly stressful, it must contain two of the elements below.

N - novelty; something new

U - unpredictability; no way of knowing it could occur

T - threat to the ego; feeling your competence is questioned

S - sense of control; feeling you have little or no control in a situation

The college process hits all of these! Adolescents are especially vulnerable to stress in the home and in their peer group. It’s easy to see why the college process may cause insecurity and stress for both students and parents. Here’s where PERMA comes in.

PERMA is the creation of Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, former President of the American Psychological Association and positive psychology proponent. It emphasizes five building blocks to encourage human flourishing:

Positive Emotion





The PERMA method can give parents a framework for reining in stress so students can focus on the positive qualities and talents they possess rather than the pressure to be admitted to certain colleges and a general fear of the process.

Here’s how I use PERMA to help my students:

We remain positive about the college process in spite of its unpredictability.

I encourage them to engage with colleges and current students to determine fit.

We form a relationship based on honesty, even when the information is hard to take.

Meaning comes from the excitement of becoming part of a new community at college.

Every step of the process is an accomplishment, from researching the unfamiliar, completing applications and essays, and even learning the importance of checking email.

When faced with a situation that’s inherently NUTS, look to PERMA. See links below:


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