Stress and You

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 By Alexandria Sese > Sophomore > English > University of Illinois at Chicago, Photo by Catherine Finsness > Sophomore > Psychology > The George Washington University

According to a recent New York Times article by Tamar Lewis, a 2010 survey found that college freshmen’s emotional health is at an all-time low. Stress is the number one cause for this decline in emotional health, coming from different sources and stages in students’ lives. While stress in college is inevitable, it is currently negatively impacting students and affecting their quality of education.

Dr. Denise Pope, a senior lecturer from Stanford University, published a book in 2003 entitled, “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students.” Initially, she shadowed students who appeared engaged in learning to find out what was working for them. What surprised her was what worked for these students: cheating.
As a high school teacher for many years, Pope was aware that her top students were stressed and that some students do resort to cheating to keep their grades up. However, in her research for her book, she found that now all top students are “caught in the game.” “Students who cheated in high school continue to cheat in college,” Pope says. “And some students who didn’t cheat in high school start cheating in college due to the pressure to get good grades.”
It hasn’t always been this way, she says. A whole host of factors have played roles in the rise of stress in college students in the span of a few decades. Attending college is becoming a more available option for young adults, especially with the convenience of the common application. Loans and scholarships have also become more readily available to students as the decades progressed. The steep increase in the number of students also increases the competition in college and in the work force later. Lewin also wrote about how the current state of economy contributes to students’ stress.
These factors, in addition to students’ own fears and concerns for their future welfare, greatly affect students’ emotional state.
But stress isn’t always self-induced. Pope co-founded Challenge Success to address the fact that parents and educators also contribute to student stress. While parents and educators mean well in encouraging students to approach be achievers in school, Pope explains that they sometimes push more towards just getting the grade instead of actually learning and retaining the materials.
In Pope’s book, she recognizes that the stresses weighing down on students are giving the wrong impression of what should be valued when it comes to learning. Instead of aspiring to become creative and engaged, students are becoming “formulaic thinkers” Pope says. They are becoming more hesitant to take risks in their learning, thus make learning uninteresting to them.
While stress can push students to thrive in a competitive environment, it’s important to remember what you value most so as not to let the pressure ruin your focus. While it is stressful to be at the top of an extremely competitive classroom, keep in mind that tainting your record with a cheating incident will be a hundred times worse to deal with in the long run.

College Magazine Staff

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