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Prioritizing Wellbeing for College and Career Success

Joe Dorri, president, The Good Student
As Mental Health Awareness Month gets underway, and in anticipation of ACT’s upcoming My Journey: Connections webinar for high school students and their families, “Tips and Takeaways for Wellbeing, College, and Career Success,” we asked the featured speaker Joseph (Joe) Dorri to answer some questions about the importance of prioritizing wellbeing and the relationship between wellbeing and mental health. Dorri is a longtime psychology professor and researcher and president of

Read on to learn more about how to support students’ wellbeing and mental health in the wake of the pandemic and through their college-going journeys. Then, join us May 11 to get specific tips for making wellbeing a priority and to get useful exercises for at school and at home.

How are wellbeing and mental health related – and how are they distinct from each other? When a student prioritizes their wellbeing, how does it affect their mental health?

Wellbeing consists of psychological, physical, and social health. This also includes positive emotions and assessment of one’s overall life and a sense of meaning and purpose. Greater wellbeing is associated with benefits across all areas of life, such as greater success in college, work, and in relationships.

Mental health consists of a psychological state that is resilient to stress and is able to learn and grow, foster cohesive relationships, and adapt so as to succeed in life. Stronger mental health is associated with less psychological distress and being better able to achieve goals.

Students who invest in their wellbeing are happier, feel more connected to others, may achieve more in college and career, and feel good about themselves and life.

What does it mean to prioritize one’s wellbeing, and what are the immediate and long-term benefits for high school students?

Prioritizing one’s wellbeing means understanding the importance of wellbeing for a fulfilling and successful life and then cultivating wellbeing as a top goal.

When you invest time in your wellbeing – by, for example, doing breathing exercises, getting enough sleep, or learning how to better communicate with your parents – you can increase your focus and complete tasks more efficiently, ultimately saving yourself additional time during the day. In fact, it’s believed that every hour invested in wellbeing translates into two hours of time spent elsewhere. So, two hours gained, minus the one spent on wellbeing – which can be fun, by the way – equals an extra hour a day to do what you want. That's 365 hours, or 15 days, each year.

The immediate benefits of increasing one's wellbeing include greater health, better mood, more fulfilling relationships, more time for activities, and greater productivity. Over the long term, prioritizing wellbeing leads to incremental successes and a positive trajectory, leading to a fulfilling career and life.

What are some key psychological factors that are important for wellbeing, and by extension, college and career success?

Key psychological factors that promote wellbeing include mental and physical health, quality relationships, clear perspectives about oneself and the world, and life purpose.

When we prioritize addressing these through science-based tools and techniques, we succeed in college and career. When you’re less stressed, you can do better on assignments and tests. When you’re more physically healthy, you will have higher cognitive functioning and resilience throughout the day. When your relationships are more functional, you can solve challenges quicker and have greater positive experiences. When you see yourself and the world more clearly, you can increase your persistence at goals. When you have a life purpose, you gain a greater sense of meaning and mission toward which you are working.

At this webinar, students will get research-supported tools and information that can increase wellbeing. Who doesn't want to work with a more caring, healthier, and effective student or employee? These are qualities I look for in my interns, and top employers and high-performing teams have these types of people.

Your organization The Good Student was founded in part to address an increase in mental health challenges among young people. Has the pandemic accelerated that increase, and how has it affected students’ ability to prioritize their wellbeing and mental health?

The Good Student nonprofit was founded to address mental health challenges and to strengthen the resilience students need to succeed in life. The pandemic increased anxiety and depression, put strains on relationships, and made succeeding at college and career more difficult. These factors together negatively affect wellbeing.

That is why this ACT webinar is so important. As students prioritize their wellbeing, they can manage the negative effects of the pandemic and thrive now and in the future.

How can families, educators, and others help students prioritize their wellbeing?

Each support structure plays an important role in the wellbeing of students. The best things they can do are to learn about the psychological factors of wellbeing, career, and college success; get to know students better; promote a culture of wellbeing; set an example; and provide students with supportive resources.

ACT is doing this with the upcoming webinar, and The Good Student is doing this through its free, science-backed student support tool, which directs users to helpful resources based on their answers to a series of questions. We all have to work together!

Joe Dorri is the founder and president of the nonprofit The Good Student, an organization making available an anonymous wellbeing, mental health and social support survey that provides immediate feedback and helpful resources. He is the author of the book “The Good Student: How to Take Control of Your College Years,” which has received many strong endorsements. He also teaches psychology and life success courses online and social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Register for the webinar, “Tips and Takeaways for Wellbeing, College, and Career Success.”