19-Year-Old Ivy Leaguer Tragically Ends Her Life Over School Stress

Madison Holleran posted a picture of the sunset last Friday evening that gave no indication that just an hour later, the 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student would jump to her death from a parking garage in Philly. Apparently the track star was feeling incredibly stressed about her grades at the Ivy League school.

Her father, James, said, “At the end of high school and going to Penn, she was the happiest girl on the planet. It was easy for her in high school ... there was a lot more pressure in the classroom at Penn. She wasn’t normal happy Madison. Now she had worries and stress.”

Madison was in therapy and had even confessed to her parents in December that she was having suicidal thoughts. Her dad said that they “knew she needed help” and were particularly worried about her last Friday.

“I was worried about her so I texted her that she needed to see the therapist. She said she would,” said James.

The teenager left gifts and notes for her family at the parking garage, which breaks my heart even more, because it just seems like this poor girl was totally overwhelmed. She had talked about transferring schools but decided to stay.

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The family does not blame the university for her death and wants to use it as a cautionary tale for others that may find themselves in a similar stressful situation. They asked that anyone wanting to send flowers for her funeral this upcoming Tuesday instead donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Madison competed on the varsity track and field team at UPenn and was well liked by her peers. University president Amy Gutmann issued a statement saying, “The entire Penn community is deeply saddened by the death of Madison Holleran ... She was bright and well-liked with an incredible future ahead of her. There are simply no words that can properly convey the sense of heartache that we all feel at such a tragic loss.”

Do you think college is more stressful now than it’s been in the past?

Please call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in case you are worried about yourself or someone else.


Image via maddyholleran/Instagram

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nonmember avatar mm

It is not the university that was more difficult, but that her high school left her unprepared. Some say their whole generation has grown up being told how special and smart they are. Pair that with ever simplified and dumbed down education the US has to offer and its a recipe for disaster.

Vanessa Fasanella

If I had a teenager who told me she was thinking about killing herself, I certainly wouldn't send her back to school and tell her to call her therapist. I would go get her and watch her every second until she was back to healthy.

Zangr... Zangrilli

Mm - the high school she went to is one of the best public schools in NJ, research before you speak. Vanessa - you haven't the slightest clue what happened here. Two rather obnoxious posts.

IKnow... IKnow0101

You can't say the high school didn't prepare her or blame the university. This girl may had other issues that we don't know about. That being said this competitive nature had become ridiculous. What happened to gaining knowledge without this sick need to be the best? I'm seeing it more and more in our young children and follow them into adulthood. The pressure of having the best grades, dozen of activities, going to the best college, then finding the best job is enough to make anyone go mad. I wish people would slow down and take a moment to evaluate what's important in life.

nonmember avatar andie

I second everything Zangrilli and IKnow said above. We have no idea what really happened here. To the previous posters that are trying to place blame - I hope you never have a tragedy like this happen in your life. So terribly sad.

Einyn Einyn

Very few life stressors "cause" suicide. It's mental illness and the inability to cope effectively. My husband committed suicide three years ago without any real "causes". We were pretty happy but he battled depression on and off his entire life.

nonmember avatar mm

Of course its tragic she took her life. However, her story is not unique. It is estimated that a thousand college students will commit suicide each year. She had story book life. Supportive parents, excelled in evrything she did.....then suddenly her grades drop when challenged and compared to top notch students from all over the world. She could have attended the best school in the nation, but that does not make up for the fact the US ranks 17th amongst the developed nation for k12 education. Her 4.0 at a US highschool was only gave her and those like her false sense of accomplishment. There is not argueing that this situation is tragic, but not taking any blame in what is clearly a societal problemis cowardly. The coddling of American young adults has to stop. Schools and parents need to teach humility, compassion, and coping skills. Instead we have kids killing themselves or others out of desperation and others standing by wondering how it could possibly happenwhile refusing to help or even see the problem to begin with.

Cathy Davis Israel

No, I do not think college is necessarily more stressful than in the past. I think high school does not prepare kids for college. There is little accountability and standards are very low to graduate. It is more important that districts maintain their 'excellent' status and keep drop out rates low than to actually set expectations on students to show up, do the work and study. I have personal experience in this as a parent and an educator. It's shameful. Prayers for this poor girl's family!

Cathy Davis Israel

Oh and my kids go/went to one of the 'best public schools' here in Texas. FYI

lulou lulou

Soccer makes me nervous.  And team sports without helmets.  And particularily that I dont think girls are studied as much as boys,mental health/concussions/teenage brain development.


As for the high school preparation debate, I dont know what the case is here.  But I do think there is a culture of parents who spend more time whining and blaming about  schools sucking, than realizing they are the public, that they also suck, and instead do something to inspire the kids by doing something about it.

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