Unrealistic expectations make stress the new normal for students

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by Kalah Siegel

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College should be educational, enjoyable and some of your best years. That’s why it’s so sad to see students breaking under the various pressures in their lives. Expectations are only rising for college graduates, and those expectations directly result in a steep increase in stress for current students.

 

Stress about the future

 

Upon graduation we’re expected to have good grades, take part in extracurricular activities, hold a leadership positions and have work experience in our field of interest. It’s ridiculous, but it’s becoming the minimum requirement even to be considered for a job. Some students aren’t even sure what they want out of a career, even as upper-division students. Yet the school still encourages us to finish undergraduate degrees in four years. That’s a lot to have together in just four years, even for the most accomplished people.

 

Stress about school

 

A stress management website reported that the 2013 edition of the National College Health Assessment found “almost half of all undergraduate students surveyed felt trauma or overwhelmed in regard to their academic responsibilities.”

At some point at San Diego State, you might hear one of your professors say “college is a full-time job,” or “school is your first priority.” Students can’t afford that luxury anymore, but teachers don’t take that into consideration when they plan their syllabi.

Cumulative finals, midterms, significant group projects and weekly assignments are assigned to us as if going to school is the only thing we have going on in our lives. It’s not, but professors keep planning their semesters on that fantasy.

 

Stress about money

 

On top of all that, many students are forced to have at least a part-time job to help cover the rising costs of tuition and housing. Working cuts into free time that could be spent taking care of the things that cause stress. Financial aid doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface for all of the people who still need financial assistance to make it through school.

 

Extracurriculars = extra stress

 

As previously mentioned, it’s the rule, not the exception, to be involved on campus. I have always advocated for being involved with extracurriculars, but there’s a fine line between getting involved to meet people and have a better college experience because of it, and getting involved to get ahead.

Get involved for the right reasons. Joining campus organizations is one of the best decisions I’ve made as an undergrad. When I realized I was only involved with certain organizations in order to put them on my resume, I dropped them because I was involved for reasons that weren’t genuine. Being involved with organizations you aren’t passionate about isn’t worth your time because they’ll only lead to stress, not a sense of reward. Never sacrifice the “you time,” or doing the things that make you happy, because that will keep you sane.

 

Stress from relationships

 

This may not be something that you lose sleep over or physically feel stressed about, but friends have a huge influence on how we spend our time. The people you surround yourself with can be the difference of you studying for your midterm or taking a spontaneous trip to Mexico on a Tuesday night.

Intimate relationships can also take their toll. The drama that can erupt from the college dating scene is unnecessary. Don’t waste your time on pointless people. You know what you want and need deep down–don’t settle for the stress of anything less.

College students are under more pressure than our parents and professors’ generation could ever imagine. We have stress coming at us from every direction, but that doesn’t mean we have to let it overtake us. Stand up to stress and remember that everything will work out one way or another in the end.

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

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