Stress and the College Student

In an age where the word “college student” encompasses a vast variety of student profiles, the term “stress” is sometimes an understatement. From your elderly man pursuing his childhood dream of a higher education, to your bartender-twenty-something fraternity guy, to your single mother juggling the many hats of mother, part-time employee and x-wife, college students are not always just “college students”.

To pin the cause of stress of college students to any one issue would be overgeneralization. The truth is that there are numerous causes for college stress. Probably the most obvious cause for stress would be financial stress. Some college students are working too many hours a week at jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table. These students may be waiters who work late shifts. They may be stock-crew members who manage to steal a couple of hours sleep during the day. They may even work hours that force them to sometimes miss class, contributing more to their stress.

For those students who do not have financial worries, there are other issues to be concerned with. There are the achievement expectations in college. Some students may have breezed through high school with straight A’s and find themselves sinking in college. The work is harder, the demand stronger, the volume of material to be learned seems insurmountable. These students begin to push themselves. They become their own critics. They can be found chugging coffee, poring over papers, and neglecting their own needs for sleep, food, and relaxation time. Making the grade becomes a single-minded pursuit to be achieved even at the cost of their own health.

There are yet other groups of students who find themselves under stress. These groups include the procrastinators. These are the kids who lounge on park benches during class, goofing off with friends. They rarely crack a book, and attend class on whims. They don’t worry over tests or homework. So the question is how are these people under stress if they don’t care? The stress comes right before final exams. These students realize that they can’t bear to repeat this course next semester. They must become miracle workers. Somehow, they must magically turn a semester or slacking into some tangible thing. They must spend the next few days living, breathing, eating, and sleeping textbooks. They must track down that girl they met on the first day of class to borrow her notes. They must conjure up excuses to beg sympathy from professors. All in all, the lies, cramming, and racing to learn material can account for huge amounts of stress.

The last group of students that I see as under stress are your average Joes and Janes. These students are the norm. They make average grades, care about their studies, work hard, and do what they should. Their grades, although nothing to turn somersaults about, are nothing to frown upon either. These students go through the normal stresses associated with college life. These are unavoidable stresses. The waiting for grades to come in when you are not sure if you bombed a midterm you studied hard for, the sleep-deprivation associated with finals week, the feeling that graduation is only a semester away and you still do not have the slightest idea what to do with the rest of your lifeâÂ?¦. The simple truth is that stress in college is not only probable. It’s inevitable.

StressâÂ?¦ it’s a word with a negative connotation. That much is certain. Still, many college students persevere and look back on their college years fondly. These are the same students who laugh over nights spent eating chocolate-dipped coffee beans to cram for a test. These are the same students who smile as the relate tales of horror from their most challenging classes. The trick is that college students keep in mind that the stress won’t go on forever. A famous man once said , “This too shall pass.” College students should be comforted by that fact and realize that the grass truly will be greener on the other side.

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