Why students today are so stressed?

 

Students are stressed today more than they used to. Soring anxiety levels, nervous breakdowns, burnouts, and even suicidal thoughts tie in badly with the image older generations harbor in their hearts – best years of our lives, friendships forged, memories created, truths learned, golden days of yore. 

However, the fact remains that an average college student today is more preoccupied with graduating on time, keeping all the scores up, finding side hassle to supplement their thin budget, and landing a promising internship to get a foot in the door of their future career than with having the time of her life. As a result, students often stretch too thin. Why?

Rat race on tricycles

First of all, that’s the pressure that starts way earlier than a student sets her foot on campus. The notion that you must send your children to college in order to set them up for a decent future permeates society. Parents start putting money away in the “college fund” when a baby is still in her crib. They prepare their children early on for harsh competition, take on three jobs only to be able to pay for tutors, sports, and art lessons. All this time, spoken or not, the message is sent to the child: “Don’t you let me down! I’ve sacrificed so much for your future!”

By the time a youngster gets to the college, the stakes are so high that every test is seen as a threat to their existence rather than just an assessment. When students are failing to keep on top of all the assignments, they think: “I’d better ask someone to write my essay for me than jeopardize everything my family and I worked so hard for!” They overreact to failure and tend to think that succeeding in life is something they owe their family and being less-than-perfect is letting them all down.

Also, the competition mentioned above is not a phantom. The number of college-educated young people is at its highest today. However, the number of white-collar jobs is not. Instead, the requirements have risen even for middle-skill jobs. So today it’s not a rare thing to see a holder of bachelor degree waiting on tables or consulting customers at a retail shop.

Graduates find themselves fighting for jobs they don’t even want, but desperately need to stay afloat and pay out the debt that college drag them into. No financial stability, no promised freedom to choose a fulfilling job.

That’s a bleak vision which students want to escape at all costs. They seek internships, unpaid positions, additional classes, lab jobs and extracurriculars that will get them coveted references – everything to beef up their resumes. They work even harder, giving up sleep and social life to get an edge over other overachievers just like them. The rat race starts earlier and earlier. It’s no longer about getting a dream job right after graduation. It’s about surviving. Otherwise, why did they go to college at all? Why did they get into this nightmare in the first place?

Higher overall levels of anxiety

Of course, the general population became more stressed too. We are getting more anxious every decade. Among the most often cited reasons are the increased pace of life and digital revolution.

The fact that people move more often, change jobs, towns and even countries leads to a decrease in social connectedness. People are less involved in the life of the community, have less meaningful relationships, family ties, and close friends. They also choose to marry later or not to marry at all. This leads to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, worry, uncertainty, and depression.

Digital revolution is a double-edged sword that contributes to stress on multiple levels. First of all, the onslaught of news leads to information overload and compassion fatigue. When have you last seen something pleasant in the news? After all, fear sells. Being constantly bombarded by reports of suffering, abuse, mass shootings, and terror attacks hardly promotes emotional stability. Even when young people try not to watch or read news, all those messages still trickle through into their social network feeds which they carry around in their pockets.

And while we are on the subject of social networks, here is another bane of the digital world we’re live in. Curated lives of our peers, as they appear on social media, push young people towards constant comparison, unrealistic expectations, and striving for a more affluent lifestyle than they can afford. Resulting from this gaping disparity between the perceived norm and reality is, again, anxiety and frustration.

 

It’s hard enough on all of us, yet imagine how stressing it must be for young people who live in constant uncertainty about the future and under pressure of great expectations? The least we can do for them is acknowledging their struggles, stop calling them snowflakes and realize that the world is different now, and their college experience might be nothing like our college experience.

Comments

What Next?

Recent Articles