College life can be a stressful journey. Many people including faculty, parents, and society often idealize college life to look like the time when one has few responsibilities or worries. Some may even argue that students who have secured places in colleges are more advantaged than those who didn’t join college. While this could be true to some extent, it shouldn’t diminish the challenges present in a college setting. Students have a lot to go through and the process is usually stressful and frustrating.
According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment report (survey conducted by America College Health Association) 85% of the students, at some point in their college life, felt overwhelmed by what they are expected to do. The same report indicates that 30% of the students mentioned that stress negatively affected their academic studies.
The above figures could be worrying but we cannot condemn stress outright. Stress is a normal part of life and in fact, lower level of stress is actually good for us as it is stimulating; it pushes us towards change and growth. Research has also proved that learning can take place under moderate stress condition. However, when the situation gets out of control and begins to interfere with one’s ability to carry on with day-to-day life then it is harmful and can pose health risks. If stress remained unattended it can trigger ulcers, lower immunity and worsen cases of asthma among students. With this in mind, students’ main goal shouldn’t be to get rid of stress but rather to keep it at moderate levels.
You may want to ask what is the source of stress among students? There are several stress triggers, especially in a college setting.
Academic demands – This is probably the main cause of stress for college students. College presents a depth of workload and expectations that students have to go through. Students are under pressure to achieve certain academic results and when they don’t meet the standard it can trigger stress. This kind of pressure often increases the intensity of test anxiety which might diminish the students’ ability to excel in their studies.
Being away from home for a long time – Most of the student are away from home for the first time when they join college. These students are, therefore, subjected to an unfamiliar environment. The food, the accommodation, and people around them are all different. Generally, this is a temporary situation that we all go through when we exposed to change so, most students will eventually adapt to the environment. Sometimes, however, it might be difficult for students to form new friend network apart from people they are used to like family members and old friends.
Finances – Even with government or parental support some students find it difficult to take on new financial responsibilities like paying for food, rent, entertainment, paperwork, phone bills etc. Some students try to manage this by working part time but this comes with challenges of balancing work and classes.
Career or after-college plans – The main concern with seniors is how to find a job after graduation. This can put students in an anxious situation not knowing if they will find jobs they like, fear of being on the same economic level as their folks, paying back student loans and generally fear of the unknown.
There are many other unique or personal stress that students in college go through. Situations like relationship issues, parental divorce or a family member being ill can stress students.
The main issue with college stress is how students respond to it. In most cases, people use coping strategies to manage stress. So, for students being able to plan for stressful situations such as exams, registrations or career choices can reduce stress. For instance, they can learn how to manage time and seeking advice from professionals about majors and minors. Stress levels build up when students resort to destructive strategies like using drugs, alcohol or overdosing on prescribed drugs. These destructive strategies might help to relief students from stress but only in the short-term and they will become counterproductive in the long run. Likewise, using least effective strategies like ignoring the problem or doing nothing will not help the situation. Some students have taken it to be part of the college experience that we all go through. Fortunately, for some, it doesn’t have to be that way.
The most effective strategy is the problem-focused approach where students tackle the problem directly at its source. With the help of everyone including friends, families, and campus student affairs office, many students can keep the stress levels under control thus make college life an enjoyable one. Most colleges have offices or programs dedicated to supporting student be it academic or counseling. These offices let students share their concerns with a mental health professional.