Stress Plaguing a Record Number of College Freshmen

The everyday stress of studying, midterms, exams, presentations, homework and working has been felt by college students for a long time. But with rising school and living costs, cuts in educational funding, school stress, and high unemployment rates, the mental and emotional state of college freshman looks to be deteriorating. According to a survey that has been taken for 25 years, the emotional health of college freshman has hit an all-time low, as stated in an article in the The New York Times.

The survey, "The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010," concluded that out of the more than 200,000 surveyed, more students rated themselves as "below average" when it came to emotional health. With those numbers on the rise, it was also concluded that each year women were viewing their emotional health as less than positive, and less than men did. The survey also concluded that 52% of the students, all incoming full-time students at four year universities, felt their emotional health was above average. That percentage has fallen from 64% when the survey started 25 years ago.

The results mirror what campus and school counselors are seeing on a daily basis. Counselors are becoming used to seeing depressed and stressed out students in their offices. With high unemployment and layoff rates still occurring frequently in parts of the country, not only are students worried about their parent’s financial situations, but their own as well. Students are going to their counselors and opening up the reality that unemployment rates will likely affect them as well. Finding a job may be difficult, and paying off tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in school debt seems impossible.

But while the survey indicates that many college freshman view their emotional health as declining, the way they rate their own drives and academic abilities has been on the rise. Last year, three quarters of the students surveyed felt their drive to achieve was above average, which reached a record high. The belief is that students are so worried from what they see going on in their families and around the country that they are giving themselves high goals to achieve. Knowing it is going to be hard to graduate, find a good paying job, and be able to pay off school debt is a reality to students, so they are already in the mindset that getting into graduate schools and pursuing graduate and doctorate degrees are necessary to land good paying jobs and fight stiff employment competition.

While the stress and depression felt by freshman college students isn’t directly targeted at one specific thing, it is clear that is has to also do with stress even before entering college. 29% of the students surveyed said that they had been frequently overwhelmed by all the things going on in their senior year of high school. There was a gender gap in frequently overwhelmed high school students as well, with 18% of males saying they were frequently overwhelmed, compared to 39% of the women who said the same thing.

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