Freshman Stress On the Rise

Eva Sachs

The first year of college can be easily stressful for anybody. Being away from friends and family for the first time, taking on new responsibilities — not to mention countless new opportunities like choices of classes, extracurricular activities, and so on — make it easy for a student to overexert herself. On top of all this, add the stress of finding even a part-time job in a poor economy. This last problem is prominent among the reasons posed in The New York Times Jan. 26 article “Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshmen,” which discussed a recent national survey of student stress.

This may be due in part to factors outside of anyone’s control — not only the poor economy, but, the article suggests, a higher rate of students who are already stressed, depressed, and even on medications. Many students already find high school to be stressful, but it seems more likely that this statistic is due to problems such as depression and anxiety disorders becoming more readily diagnosed and treated.

I, for one, have found myself more worried about immediate issues such as getting work done for school and for my current part-time job than about the economy. There is no doubt that I often try to do too much. Indeed, there is an incredible wealth of academic and extracurricular opportunities at Oberlin College. At times I feel like a dog with too many chew toys being waved at me. In general, this is a very good thing, but the answer to this particular dilemma may be for me to stop trying to go for all the chew toys at once — fat chance.

This dilemma is also where both schools and teachers can help students. Classes, or one-time lectures about time management, are always useful — especially for freshmen still getting used to the new setting. One of the events I went to during Orientation week in the fall was a huge help. It was just a small pep talk about stress given to an equally small audience. While I have not since tried any of the meditation practices suggested at the talk, just listening to some of the advice was useful. The lecture answered a few questions, such as where to go to get help. Yet, more importantly, the speaker emphasized that you are not the only one going crazy over this. The fact that there were other people who voluntarily attended the lecture helped affirm that. It is easy to feel isolated, especially when you are surrounded by strangers, and knowing that you are surrounded by other like-minded people can be a huge relief.

And yet, knowing that you’re not truly alone is only a small help if you are not prepared for college-level work. Many public schools in the United States do not prepare students for life beyond secondary school. Take, for example, New York City. A Feb 8 New York Times article by Sharon Otterman, “Most New York Graduates Are Ill Prepared,” pointed out that new statistics have graduation rates in New York City at 64 percent, but “show that only 23 percent of students in New York City graduated ready for college or careers in 2009.” The article continues to show that various other areas of the state are even worse. With an ever-increasing number of students entering college, it is vital that students can keep up with the work expected of us. We need to take some responsibility, but we can only do so much on our own. We count on our school systems and our teachers to provide us with the information that we need to become responsible citizens. We need to know how to manage ourselves, our time and our work — all of which are just as important as learning to write a five-paragraph essay or a lab report.