There was a great article posted on December 9th in The Atlantic that talked, among other things, about the stress of trying to get into an elite college. Below is an excerpt...I encourage you to read the entire article which can be found here:
Janet Lavin Rapelye, the dean of admission at Princeton, told the New York Times that students should “use the criterion of interest when selecting extracurricular activities, rather than how a list of activities might appear to a college admission office.” A former Stanford University dean of freshmen wrote a column in the same newspaper saying that many of the students she encountered “taught me that a pre-programmed, enriched, spoon-fed, caged-in, ‘checklisted childhood’ may in fact lead to an impressive ‘resume’... but that such achievements can come at the expense of self-efficacy—a true, innate sense of self that is undermined when a person has too much of the stuff of life planned and handled for them.”
The article goes on to say:
Irena Smith, a former Stanford admissions officer recalls a student who wrote an essay about working her summers in a fast-food restaurant, and was accepted to several Ivy League schools. “Given the population of students I see, she probably shone like a diamond in the applicant pool at Harvard,” Smith says flatly, emphasizing that the student’s unique way of looking at the world and the way she wrote had more to do with her acceptance than the exact circumstances of her summer job.
“I think the biggest misconception people have is that there are these magical things you can do each summer that will get your kid into the perfect college.” ...“Whatever the student does should be theirs to find and to like or not like,” Smith says, “rather than have a well meaning adult carefully steering them so they avoid all the dead ends and sharp corners. You don’t learn a lot if your whole life path is charted.”