The Most Stressed Generation

Ryleigh Stearns

Interdisciplinary Studies Major

Applied Project

Dont’ get me wrong, I love being a college student. There are so many valuable experiences and relationships that are made. I would not change it for anything. College is very different for people. Some will say that college is not for them, and some will say college gave some of the best years of their life. But something that all college students have in common is the amount of stress they endure each year.21192268_10155857626539276_1048055867853500127_n.jpg

When I was in high school, almost all of my teachers were giving extra assignments to get to “ready for college”. In reality, those extra assignments did nothing in preparation for my college experience. As a senior, I can say that I have had some of the best and worst times during my 4 years at school. Stress does not only come from the amount of work you have, but it comes from many outside experiences as well. College is a big step. Young students are placed into an environment they are not used to, without the guidance of their parents or friends from home. They have to learn to cook for themselves, eat healthy, make new friends, manage their time affectively, clean up after themselves, and ultimately, make the right choices. Students are faced with tremendous amounts of peer pressure, especially in their first year. Many will conform to peer pressure in the hopes of fitting in with their friend groups.

All of these things I mentioned previously, have much to do with the high amount of stress students are currently having. Around the end of the semester, during finals, students are spending countless hours at home or the library doing work to attempt to meet deadlines their professors have set. I thought that this would be the perfect time to ask the students themselves all about their stress in college and university. I created a survey for any person attending college weather it be for associates, bachelors or masters. I wanted to explore stress levels and coping mechanisms of students of all years and get a better idea of what college students are actually experiencing.

The survey consisted of these 8 questions:

  1. What is your current year attending university/college?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, with one being not stressed at all and 10 being the most stressed you’ve ever been, how stressed do you feel daily during the school year?

  3. What causes stress in your life? Select all that apply.
  4. How do you deal with stress? Select all that apply.
  5. Do you agree that stress has had a negative impact on your physical and/or mental health?
  6. Do you often feel like you have to choose between having a social life and school work?
  7. Do you believe there are enough resources on campus to help you when you are stressed?
  8. Do you believe you would benefit greatly if your school offered more resources for stressed students?


Overall, the survey is not long in length. But what college student has time to take a fifteen minute survey? I know I wouldn’t. I want to start by analyzing the 2nd question. Overall, 57 college/university students took the time to take my survey. When asked how stressed they were on a daily basis on a scale of 1-10, a majority of the students put an 8. This was shocking to me. The second highest answer was a seven so not much different there. I also wanted to point out that not one person rated their daily stress level at a 1 or a 2. And yes, there were two people that said 10, being the most stressed they have ever been, was their daily stress level while attending school.

Something that I was not shocked to see were the results for question number 3. What causes stress in your life? Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 2.25.54 PM

Money, school and homework. I think many students can agree that those three things are the source of most of our stress. 54/57 people answered school as a cause of stress in their life. 52/57 people said homework was another cause of the stress in their life. The two just go hand and hand.

I then began to ask students how they deal with their high levels of stress. I made a list of good and bad coping mechanisms such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sleeping, eating, talking to a friend, therapy, and so on. What I found was that sleep was the number one way people dealt with their stress. I found this interesting because this can be good or bad. A proper amount of sleep is necessary for a well rested mind and body. But sleeping when you have work to do for class can end up putting more stress on yourself in the long run since you continue to put the work off. 67% of people said that talking with a friend or family member helped them deal with stress. This is a great coping mechanism because talking about problems prevents you from keeping them to yourself and stressing yourself out more. Unfortunately, drinking and drug abuse were also quite popular on the list in the survey. In college, students are pressured into doing activities that they may not do outside of school. Alcohol and drugs can make you feel good for a short amount of time, but will negatively impact you in the long run.

Question number 5 was a brief question with a large impact. Do you agree that stress has had a negative impact on your physical and/or mental health? 95% of surveyors said yes.

A lot of times, I feel like I am drowning so much in school work that I don’t have time for myself or friends. Social interactions in school are important for your mental health. Having people to go to when you need them are essential in a school environment when you are away from home. That leads me to question number 6. Do you often feel like you have to choose between school work and having a social life? 75% said yes.

The last two questions I included in this survey are important to me. Do you believe there are enough resources on campus to help you when you are stressed? Do you believe you would benefit greatly if your school offered more resources for stressed students? For me personally, I do not know about the resources offered on campus. My sophomore year, free student therapy was offered where you can meet with a professional counselor about anything that was on your mind. Something else I discovered was that there used to be a room on campus with oversized bean bag chairs that was open to all students who needed a study break and could just lay down on the giant bean bag chairs. I’m sad they do not have that resource anymore. Other than that, I have no idea what else is offered on campus. So I wanted to ask my peers. Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 3.41.59 PM

Clearly there is a miscommunication here with the resources available. To me this shows that the school system has failed to show students what resources were available on campus for their high amounts of stress. If more students were more aware of the resources on campus to help them with stress, they may attend and seek help more often. It also could be that there just aren’t that many resources available for students.

Finally I asked students if they would benefit greatly if their school offered more resources for stressed students. These were their results:

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 3.41.39 PMThe most picked response was “a great deal”. I could agree with this. With the high amount of payment for college, students should always be taken care of. They pay more than enough each semester to do so. None of the surveyors said that more resources would not benefit the students of the school they attend.

Stress and school go hand and hand. Mental health is extremely important when you are a college student. This is most likely the first time on your own, so you are not used to living without your parents telling you what to do. You learn to make harder decisions for yourself and grow up. We are all human. Sometimes people need help dealing with daily problems in our life. I believe it is a responsibility of the school to have an adequate amount of resources for stressed students available every day of the week. Stress can do a lot to physically and mentally harm someone. So being able to prevent a higher amount of stress is better than dealing with the highest amount of stress you have ever had before.

College years are some of the best and worst of your life. I have learned so much from the responses of fellow students who feel the pressure of school each day. If I were to change something about my process, I would have opened the survey earlier in the year in order to get more responses. My goal was to obtain 100 responses, for that is a good sample size, and I only received 57 total. Although, I found each response to be extremely valuable and helpful for me in making and analyzing my applied project. I hope that all college students and universities can see how greatly students would be impacted if there were more resources offered for stressed out students. Nobody wants to see a student fail and offering more resources for stressed students is the first step to prevent failure.

If you are interested in reading more about stress and how outdoor activity can help reduce it, click here to read my recent research article!

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