The average college student will tell you on a given day, they can choose to get sleep, have a social life or study. Some can manage to achieve two of these, but few can boast success at all three, and there’s hardly any wonder.
Parents are pushing harder than ever to have extremely successful and accomplished children, and the stress is getting to us. A 2013 survey by the American College Health Association revealed 84.3 percent of student participants felt “overwhelmed by all they had to do” and 51.3 percent felt “overwhelming anxiety.”
However, with a study published in the Review of Economics and Statistics showing students are studying, on average, 10 fewer hours than in 1961, the question remains: how are we so much more stressed?
The answer has everything to do with how students are expected to behave during college. Students are strictly discouraged from and often scared out of going out with friends and having a good time.
Statistics about the dangers of going out at night, drinking with friends and experimenting with style are shoved down students’ throats before they cross the threshold of their first class.
Many parents expect college to be nothing more than career training for the 20-something toddler they sheltered and dragged through academia up until that point with a 4.0 and a gleaming resume of more or less extraordinary achievements that don’t interest the student in the least.
In her book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success,” Julie Lythcott-Haims recalls her time as a dean.
“I heard plenty of stories from college students who believed they had to student science, … just as they had to play piano,” she said. “I talked to kids completely uninterested in the items on their own resumes.”
College shouldn’t be a reluctant choice made on behalf of a student, rather it should be an intellectual playground where interesting and engaging discourse allows students to broaden their perspectives and meet new kinds of people.
Of course, there are those who will argue that having a social life in college isn’t constructive and that college friends are ultimately useless for one’s professional life. But these friends may be more useful than previously believed.
A study from the University of Rochester has revealed a correlation between the number of social interactions per day, the quality of social relationships by the age of 30 and emotional well-being of students later in life.
The study, 30 years in the making, showed that those with poor social connections have a higher risk of early mortality. According to one of the researchers, Cheryl Carmichael, “having few social connections is equivalent to tobacco use.”
Furthermore, a little stress relief also goes a long way. Useful though friends are for lifting spirits, few things beat some good old-fashioned zzz’s at relieving stress. It should come as no surprise to the modern student that getting enough sleep each night is recommended.
However, according to a study from the University of Cincinnati, “only 24 percent of the students who were surveyed reported getting adequate sleep” — seven to eight hours, according to researchers.
In fact, the research showed that staying up late to study and losing hours of rest was actually detrimental to the students’ ability to concentrate and remember.
Ultimately, students need to stop burning themselves out at both ends, and parents need to stop expecting them to do as much. There’s nothing wrong with ambition and high expectations, but when it comes to getting the most out of college, driving yourself crazy to live up to someone else’s standards will certainly not work.
Overworked students: show this to your parents.
Grace Hoyte is a junior majoring in English literature.