“Welcome to the best four years of your life!” Sike. College can be fun, but more often than not you’re swamped with enough work to keep you busy for a lifetime. Have you stress-called your mom sobbing about your mountain of assignments? Too anxious to fall asleep at night? Still questioning why you volunteered for four years of mental and financial torture? If so, you might just go to one of the most stressful colleges. Warning: Anxiety levels may increase from reading this.
Find out if you have what it takes to survive at the 10 most stressful colleges.
10. University of Pennsylvania
Hey, you know that guy on the back of the hundred dollar bill? Benjamin Franklin? Well, he just so happens to be the founder of UPenn. Coincidentally, if you go here you’re bound to need tons of Benjamins to pay for tuition alone, which is a staggering $43,838. If you’re one of the lucky 43 percent who receive financial aid then you shouldn’t have a problem. But the other 57 percent? Good luck. Oh, yeah, it’s also one of the most crime-riddled colleges—yikes. As if getting accepted wasn’t stressful enough. The application process involves two teacher evaluations, essays, a counselor letter AND an interview. Stressed yet? You should be.
9. Northwestern University
For all you economics and journalism majors out there—Northwestern has repeatedly been ranked as one of the top schools in the nation for both. Sounds great, right? We should probably mention that getting accepted into either department could prove a bit tricky, considering how competitive the majors are—so study up. To make matters worse, Northwestern has seen a spike in suicides in recent years. “A lot of students know about these suicides and it’s scary to think that stress could be the cause of it. It makes you think twice about the education system,” said sophomore Cameron Spicer.
8. Washington University in St. Louis
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt extreme levels of stress when thinking about how much college costs and how empty your bank account is. Chances are, if you go to Washington University in St. Louis, this is you. Not only is in-state tuition $44,100 but only 39 percent of students receive financial aid. Ouch. If that doesn’t scare you off, maybe the fact that it’s in St. Louis—AKA one of the most dangerous cities in the US—will (who knew?). “We’re expected to get straight A’s, spend 90 percent of our time in the B stacks of the library, play a sport, be involved in Greek life, and know how to play Mozart on some musical instrument. If you don’t have all these qualities, you can’t compete with everyone else,” said freshman Ashley Taylor Madsen. No time for partying here.
7. Cornell University
Cornell often ranks as one of the top schools in the world, but it can’t be easy to maintain such a good rep—so insert stress here. Flashback to the 2000s when Cornell was dubbed one of the “suicide colleges” due to high numbers of suicide among students. At one point the school even had to hire security guards to keep watch on the bridges surrounding Cornell’s gorges to prevent students from jumping. Whether these incidents are a result of stress or not is anyone’s guess, but it’s certainly a less than ideal situation to find yourself in. “I’ve had friends who have contemplated suicide because of school, whether it’s failing a class or not getting into your major. It’s hard,” said freshman Beth Livingson.
6. New York University
Ever wondered why New York City is called “the city that never sleeps?” Well, it might be because NYU students are always up trying to finish homework. Known for its incredibly competitive programs like visual and performing arts and social sciences, getting an education here is no easy feat. And with only a 77 percent four-year graduation rate, don’t be surprised if you have to stick around a few extra semesters. “Students often times are balancing a full course load, have an internship and are involved in a couple extracurriculars… not to mention maintaining a social life,” said sophomore Sean Leahy.
5. Wake Forest University
Here’s a fun fact: students have dubbed Wake Forest University “Work Forest.” Why? Because it’s hard to catch a break at this school. If you’re serious about studying here (which obviously every applicant is) then you better start working on your application early on. Not only do you need to have high grades to get into this competitive college, you need to be prepared to write a lot. This college is notorious for its seemingly easy supplementary essays that actually matter a lot more than you’d think. For example, one of them forces you to describe yourself in 140 characters. Yes, you’re asked to describe yourself in a tweet. Any WFU student will tell you to steer clear of “LOL” and “WTF” at all costs.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Along with being one of the top schools in the nation, MIT is notorious for its rampant crime. In 2011, the Cambridge police department reported 23 rapes and 520 robberies. And in 2010, when The Daily Beast ranked the most unsafe residential colleges in America, MIT took the 13th slot. Having to balance that risk on top of homework and jobs and friends? This calls for extra shots in your morning coffee.
3. Tulane University
Sure, New Orleans seems like a super fun place to study (hello, Mardi Gras?!) but Tulane students will tell you that’s definitely not how it feels most of the time. With only 26 percent of applicants accepted, Tulane has a reputation for being extremely selective and making sure each applicant will add something to the university community. As a result, the teacher to student ratio here is really low—1 to 9. That may sound ideal but with competitive programs like public health and business your professors will certainly be able to tell if you’re putting in the effort to get ahead. Hint: here would be the perfect place to be teacher’s pet.
2. Stanford University
Located in sunny California, Stanford is known for its pretty weather and even prettier scenery. Palm trees, sun—how stressful could this school be? Very. According to The Stanford Daily, 23 percent of students considered suicide in 2014. That’s not including the number of students who feel stressed and depressed on a regular basis. “There are definitely times when I’ve felt so stressed I actually cry. I knew school here would be difficult but sometimes it feels like too much,” said junior Mary A. Sometimes the sun isn’t enough to shake off the blues, especially at a high-strung school like this.
Related Read: Top 10 Most Beautiful College Campuses
1. Harvard University
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without Harvard—arguably the most prestigious school in the world. With an acceptance rate of 5.9 percent, only about 2,000 students were accepted in 2014. Known for its top-notch programs, Harvard is not the place one goes to get schwasted. Students here are some of the most hardworking individuals, but in recent years up to half of the entire student body reported feeling depressed. Even worse, about a third say they’ve felt overwhelmed at least a dozen times throughout the school year—which means they’re not just stressed during finals.
If you ever feel like you just can’t take it anymore, know that you’re not alone. Almost all of the schools on this list have amazing resources for student mental health, like Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health program, and Stanford’s Counseling and Psychological Services. So reach out if you’re struggling—no one deserves to fight alone.
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*Updated on June 23, 2016 to include new information from Valerie Siu.
*Updated July 21, 2016 with an opportunity to save on textbooks.
*Updated by M Lindeman on January 14, 2022 for code issues