There are many stressors that you cannot avoid or prevent. This is especially true in college where you will have to study a lot, strive to get high grades, be away from home, deal with all kinds of people and share the dorm.
Did you know that as much as 80% of all college students report feeling stressed sometimes or often?
Before you actually step foot on a college campus, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with the right information concerning stress college students experience. Doing so will help keep surprises, including unfavorable ones, to a minimum, thus keeping yourself from going off the rails as you work on your college degree.
So, without further ado, here are 16 college-related stress facts…
70% of students stress about cost of college
Leading this list of facts about stress in college students is what’s considered the leading cause of stress among degree seekers: the steep cost of earning a diploma these days.
According to a survey that appeared on the website of the Ohio State University (OSU), about 7 out of 10 college students feel stressed about their finances — approximately 60% of them worry about not having enough money to pay for their education, while the rest are concerned with paying monthly college-related expenses.
The thought of ending neck-deep in student loan debt seems to make things worse.
As a matter of fact, as many as 32% of participating college students admit to neglecting their studies at one point as a result of worrying about the exorbitant amount of money they owe.
Still, despite college cost-related stress, over one-third of all students feel that college is a good investment.
Harvard and Stanford are most stressful colleges
College is more stressful than high school. There are so many reasons behind it — increased responsibilities, less sleep, balancing studies and part-time jobs, being away from home, etc.
Barely surviving high school because of stress? Then you might want to choose a college wisely.
There are some institutions of higher education that are simply more stressful than the rest. In most instances, they are the biggest, most prestigious and most competitive schools in the land. While it’s true that attending them can result in lots of high-paying career opportunities, for many college students, tons of stress will have to be faced beforehand.
If dodging excessive stress in college is a priority in order to be able to get your hands on a degree, see to it that none of these most stressful schools (in descending order) end up on your college list:
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- Tulane University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Wake Forest University
- New York University
- Cornell University
- Washington University in St. Louis
- Northwestern University
- University of Pennsylvania
Aerospace engineering is the most stressful major
At times, it’s not the college that’s stressful but some of its programs. Interested in something that has a more aggressive admissions process and lower acceptance rate than the rest? Then it’s safe to assume that the academic journey is going to be a challenging one and thus can leave you one really stressed undergraduate student.
Here are some college majors notorious for being stressful:
- Aerospace engineering
- Biomedical engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Computer science
- Electrical engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Petroleum engineering
But here’s the deal with the college majors listed above as well as other stressful ones: they tend to be the ones that lead to some of the most high-paying careers around. The best-paid 25% of all biomedical engineers in the US, for instance, receive an estimated salary of $123,400 per year!
When thinking about going for a major that you like because it’s vital for taking the career path of your liking but fear that it might be too stressful for you, just keep in mind what Euripides once said: Much effort, much prosperity.
71% of first-year college students feel homesick
For many first-time, first-year students, one primary cause of stress is being away from their families.
True enough, according to research conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), around 71% of freshmen college students feel homesick occasionally or frequently. And as a result of this, about 64% report feeling depressed once in a while or often.
Any student who is studying away from home can experience homesickness, especially at the onset of college, domestic out-of-state students and international students alike.
Homesickness can last for several weeks or a few months. It may go away after some time only to come back one day, especially in circumstances where students could use the comfort only their loved ones back home can offer. Many cope by getting in touch with their families and meeting new people and building relationships.
Being stressed leads to no social life in college
Self-confidence, emotional stability, reduced depression, lasting relationships, networking — these are just some of the many benefits of socializing in college.
Unfortunately, too much stress can keep you from mingling and being able to take advantage of its perks.
Based on a report by the University of New York (NYU) on its website, up to 53% of college students in the US feel so stressed that they no longer want to hang out with their buddies. It isn’t surprising since young adults with high perceived stress have difficulty establishing and engaging in social relations.
Not socializing in college, be it due to stress or something else, can lead to serious problems such as poor self-esteem, decreased ability to learn and even depression.
Stress is the main reason for poor academics
There are so many different things that can cause college students to perform poorly and get low and sometimes failing grades. Some of them include too difficult subject matter, professors who are not too very good at doing their jobs and an environment that’s too distracting.
But according to an American College Health Association (ACHA) survey involving more than 100 colleges and universities in the US, stress is the biggest academic impediment among students.
In the said survey, only 9% of participants have less than average to no stress. The rest, on the other hand, experience a lot of stress, with around 45% of them reporting having above-average stress levels and about 13% complaining of encountering tremendous amounts of stress.
And approximately 61% of undergraduate students going through stress feel a lot of pressure to get good grades, which is counterproductive since stress can in fact affect one’s academic performance negatively.
Stress causes depression and vice versa
Acute and chronic — these are the two kinds of stress based on the duration.
Sometimes also referred to as short-term stress, acute stress can in fact be beneficial to college students as it can help them prepare so much better for an exam or report. In a few, we will discuss this type of stress more and how it can actually increase your chances of succeeding in college — so don’t stop reading now!
On the other hand, long-term or chronic stress can wreak havoc not only on your physical health but mental health, too. And depression is just one of the things that can result from it.
The problem with the relationship between stress and depression is that it’s bidirectional. This means that one can cause the other and both can worsen each other.
Stress can make you depressed, and being depressed can worsen stress — it’s a vicious cycle!
75% of kids do not utilize college support systems
Up to 7 out of 10 teens struggle with their mental health in some way, according to a survey — more than 50% suffer from anxiety, 45% experience excessive stress and 43% go through depression.
Meanwhile, college and university presidents are getting increasingly concerned about the mental health of their students. And that is why there are all kinds of support systems available for attendees now more than ever, ranging from support groups, grief counseling, to telecounseling and telehealth.
Over 75% of college students, unfortunately, do not seem to utilize any of them, based on a study by Course Hero and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). Instead, around 64% of them turn to their friends and about 45% of them turn to their parents.
Approximately 30%, on the other hand, turn to their significant others.
Only 40% of female students feel safe on campus
College can bring the promise of a successful and satisfying career after graduation. Unfortunately, it can also bring the threat of assault while one is working on a degree. This is especially true for female students.
It’s no secret that women are simply more vulnerable to gender-based violence.
Young women aged 16 to 24 years old, according to a crime survey, are even more so in danger of sexual violence and violent crimes. It’s no wonder why only 40% of female college students feel safe walking home at night compared to 90% of male college students.
Worrying about completing coursework and getting good grades while at the same time ensuring graduating in one piece can definitely make college even more stressful for female students.
To reduce stress and stay secure, campus safety should be a main factor in the college selection process.
On-campus residents are more likely to experience stress
Especially among out-of-state students, on-campus living is something that can cause college costs to rise even more. Based on recent data, the average cost of room and board is $12,540 per year at four-year private non-profit institutions and $11,303 per year at four-year public institutions.
It’s not just the added cost of room and board that can make college stressful for students residing on-campus but also the act of living in residence halls itself.
Based on an Indiana University South Bend Undergraduate Research Journal report, college students who live on-campus with one or more roommates admit to having higher levels of stress than those who live off-campus with one or more roommates. The report adds that the majority of them are college freshmen students.
Living in a small area for the first time and sharing it with one or more people can prove to be a challenge.
50% of students sleep less than 7 hours per night
An article on the website of Harvard Summer School says that anywhere from 70% to 96% of all college students enjoy less than 8 hours of sleep per night. It adds that, meanwhile, more than 50% sleep for less than 7 hours per night.
What’s bad about not getting enough sleep nightly is that it can make college students more stressed.
And it can be easy for sleep-deprived college students to wind up in a savage circle where the more stressed they get, the less sleep they obtain, and the less they sleep, the more stressed they become. Failure to break the cycle can lead to serious psychological issues in the long run.
Mental health experts recommend for college students to be more active and productive throughout the day and establish a sleep schedule in order to deal with not only sleep issues but also unnecessary stress.
The finals week is the most stressful for many
Near the end of the calendar year, there are many things college students start looking forward to — attending holiday parties, pigging out on festive treats, going back home to visit family and friends.
But before all that, they first have to overcome a massive and trying hurdle: the finals week.
Approximately 31% of college students confess that the final exams are some of their biggest sources of stress, says a report by the Butler Collegian, which is an independent and nationally recognized student news organization at Butler University, a private institution in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Overachieving college students are more susceptible to high levels of stress during finals, what with the need to commit to many different things other than exams and various non-class-related duties and responsibilities.
While the exams themselves may not be that nerve-racking at times, the weeks leading up to them can be.
Switching majors in college causes major anxiety
Putting up with a major you do not like 100% can make college feel even more stressful — nothing can be more distressing to undergraduate students than earning a degree they strongly feel is wrong for them as well as eventually having a career in an industry or area they firmly believe they don’t belong in.
It’s a good thing that changing majors is perfectly normal. After all, about 80% of college students do so.
But there’s bad news: turning your back on your current major to welcome a new one can cause additional stress due to things like losing your hard-earned units, postponing your graduation date, spending more money for an extra semester or two, and potentially losing your scholarship.
Feel like switching majors is the only option? It’s a good idea to switch as soon as you possibly can — the more you delay changing to a new one, the more obstacles you may have to try to overcome.
Single parents under stress due to role conflict
Earlier, we talked about the fact that almost all college students fail to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
The situation is worse for undergraduate students who are single parents — according to a report by Sophia, which is the digital institutional repository for St. Catherine University, they get an average of 5.9 hours of sleep per night only. And stress and anxiety appear to be the primary culprits.
About one-third of all single parents attending four-year colleges have full-time jobs, too. Paired with the need to look after their kids, it isn’t surprising that both their physical and mental health are affected.
It goes without saying that it can negatively affect their academic performance.
When the time comes when role conflict, which happens when there are contradictions between the different roles people play in their everyday lives, occurs, it’s the role of being college students that many single parents abandon.
Video games help reduce stress in 18-year-olds
Already experiencing a lot of college-related stress but still in the process of building a college list?
Here’s something that you might want to consider taking with you to your dorm: a video gaming console.
Based on a post on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News, video gaming can help relieve stress in people aged 18 to 55. It works by allowing you to escape from it all and attain relaxation. In addition, it also lets you feel that you are in total control of your environment.
Combined, all these things can help lower stress levels.
Different video games have different cognitive and emotional perks, too. For instance, action-packed ones can improve academic performance, while games that require team-playing can help one socialize better.
But to maximize the stress-busting benefits of video gaming, keep its use to a minimum.
Positive stress can help college students succeed
Thus far, we have been discussing all sorts of negative effects of stress in college students. But are you aware that there are instances, too, in which stress can prove to be beneficial for degree seekers?
Stress can be categorized into main types: negative stress or distress and positive stress or eustress.
Experiencing the good kind of stress can help boost memory and learning. Similarly, it can improve decision-making skills, which results from an increase in a certain kind of amino acid in the brain that’s capable of heightening cognitive functioning. As a college student, you could benefit tremendously from eustress.
But just like negative stress, positive stress can also result in burnout in the long run.
Knowing your limitations and maintaining balance in your academic life are a must if you want to keep eustress from doing more harm than good eventually. It’s also a good idea to adopt effective stress-busting activities or habits in order to be able to keep stress, whether the good or bad kind, in check.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.