Students entering college for the first time are excited for what should be one of the greatest times of their lives. Instead, they quickly learn that keeping up with all that is expected of a college student is quite a daunting task.
College students are expected to keep their grades up while working, as well as keeping up with their extracurricular activities, both in-school and out-of-school.
Additionally, many college students today help fund or solely fund their own education. Time management is one of the most stressful aspects of a college student’s life because it seems as if there is just not enough time in each day to get everything done.
With more students entering college and the workforce than ever before, this pressure is increased tenfold.
Students at Saint Peter’s University experience this pressure because they feel like they have so many things to do, but never enough time.
Alexandra Bernard, a senior studying psychology and sociology, says, “Besides school, I work, I hold a leadership position at my church. There are times where all my work and responsibilities pile up on me and it causes a great deal of stress.”
Bernard’s experience of stress is not uncommon. A greater number of college students are reporting feelings of stress and anxiety. Many have even reported experiences of panic attacks.
A study done by the American Psychology Association (APA) claims that teen stress during the academic year is even higher than that of adults.
This study showed that “many teens reported feeling overwhelmed (31 percent) and depressed or sad (30 percent) as a result of stress. More than one-third of teens reported feeling tired (36 percent) and nearly one-quarter of teens (23 percent) reported skipping a meal due to stress.”
Skipping a meal because of stress aggravates stress because this deprives the body of the nutrients it needs.
Bernard reports instances where she was forced to skip meals, not because she wanted to, but because she felt like she had no other choice.
“I have seen a massive detrimental impact on my health. Since I am so busy doing either homework or work for church, I feel I never have time to eat. So, I eat either really late at night, or I eat something that's fast and convenient but not healthy,” she said.
Skipping meals and stress cause changes in sleeping patterns. Thus, students are left feeling even more stressed in this cycle.
“I barely sleep because if I'm not at school, I’m at work, or at church. There’s really not a day where I can sleep in because my weekends are also pretty jam-packed with responsibilities,” explains Bernard.
Wisam Rashid, a junior at Saint Peter’s pursuing a major in education and a minor in math, reports a similar experience as Bernard. Rashid too experienced stress and lack of sleep when she first came to college.
She reports needing to work two jobs to pay for her education, but she says, “with the amount of school work given to college students and the pressure to be this ‘perfect’ student I have been affected by it financially. I want to do well in school and I cannot do so if I am working two jobs.”
Rashid’s point about being a “perfect” student affects all students. Students are expected to be able to do everything and to make time for everything while maintaining their grades because they are told that it is just part of being a student.
Similarly, in many colleges, if they want to maintain whatever scholarships they are awarded, they must maintain a certain grade point average, or risk losing their scholarships.
“In order to keep my scholarship I must maintain a certain GPA, but in order to maintain that GPA I must put most of my time and focus into my school work, which can be difficult for any student, let alone a full-time student who works two jobs,” she said.
The reality is that this lifestyle of constant pressure, stress, and anxiety is harmful to the students, not only during college, but in the future as well.
According to the APA’s study, teens who experience stress without coping with it correctly continue to experience even higher levels in their adult lives. Without coping mechanisms and stress management, stress and anxiety disorders could develop, and may even lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.
Here at Saint Peter’s University, the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offers drop in hours where students needing to speak to someone can get the help they need.
CAPS has also started a stress and anxiety discussion group that meets periodically.
Students who are experiencing this pressure and stress should not feel alone, or like there is no way out. Sometimes, the first step is just asking for help, or as Rashid explains, realizing what course of action works best for individuals.
“What I have learned through my years in college so far is if you manage your time wisely, you can succeed in all that you do,” she said “I realized no matter how busy I get with school work, I have to make time for my health as well.”