5 Causes of Stress in College Students

causes of stress in college students

Stress is a normal part of college life. It's the first time many students are both away from home and responsible for doing well academically.

A little stress is actually good, as it motivates students to overcome challenges. However, too much stress can negatively impact a student's mind and body, which can result in a variety of issues. Today, we're taking a closer look at several of the most common causes of stress in college students so you're prepared to handle even the most stressful situations.

Here are 5 causes of stress in college students.

Causes of Stress in College Students

Some may think college students do not experience a lot of stress. They think all a student must do is show up for class, pass some tests and graduate. This is not true, however. Stress among college students can be overwhelming and can affect many areas of a student’s life.

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The American Psychological Association reports 45% of students seeking help in college are doing so because of stress. Anxiety and depression are also among the top reasons and often are related to their stressors.

There are at least five major areas of stress in a college student’s life. These are discussed below in more detail.

Financial Stress

Every student has concerns about finances. They worry about how they will pay for classes, how they will repay loans, and how they will pay for housing and necessities while living on very little income. Even those students who have parents covering the full cost of college stress over money.

Most students do not want to burden their parents with the cost of college, but they know they need financial help. This can lead to the student feeling guilty about spending their parents’ money, so they take out more financial aid.

Students graduate from college with a loan debt from $25,000 to $125,000 or more.

Many choose to work part-time while in college to help them pay for classes, books, and living. Working part-time takes away from the time needed to study.

Financial debt can lead to stress about what type of job they can land post-college.

Job Outlook Stress

Students must consider jobs that will help them pay off their loans as quickly as possible.  But not all jobs available can provide this advantage. For instance, students may go into $70,000 of debt to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology. They may not realize that a bachelor’s degree in psychology typically only allows you to get a job making between $25,000 and $40,000.

Stress comes from realizing they will not be able to pay off their loans for many years. Stress becomes higher when students realize they must have qualities that stand out from all the other job candidates. This means getting involved in more work, volunteer work or extracurricular activities.

Believe it or not, job searching, and applications can create stress. With so many graduating students fighting for the same starting job, students begin to feel as if they want to give up avoiding rejections and denials.

Students may feel their academic success is one way to outshine competitors. Therefore, they push themselves academically to achieve the highest grades and honors. This can lead to academic stress.

Academic Stress

The requirements from one class alone can be daunting. Most professors ask students to complete homework assignments, readings and prepare for exams. In addition, some require students to write research papers, journals and participate in out-of-class activities.

Combine all those activities and multiply them by four, five or six other classes, then you can recognize how stressful it can before college students.

Not all academic stress comes from the professor, however. Some of it comes from having poor time management, and some of it comes from the parents or guardians of the students.

Family Stress

Well-meaning parents often put unnecessary stress on students. They may think they are helping them by placing high expectations on them. But many times, it creates higher stress also.

Families are not perfect. All the imperfections your family may have can lead to an overload of stress. Some of the issues faced by families, that can create stress for students, include divorce, family finances, and poor communication.

Many students attending college want to please their parents, even if the parents reassure them they are pleased no matter what. It is an internal drive to make parents proud, to show them they are not wasting their money.

College students are trying to find their independence while balancing that with a dependency on their families. They cannot be free while they continue to receive support from family members. And they cannot reach their goals without being dependent on family.

Achieving this balance can create a lot of stress.

Everything Else Stress

Aside from academics, family and the worries about finding a job after graduation, there is everything else that goes on in a student’s life that creates stress.

Peer pressure is one of these stressors. Students can face peer pressure multiple times throughout any single day in college. In each class, the cafeteria, and in the dorm room, they talk to others who pressure them to skip their responsibilities to attend a party, concert or other activity.

Many times, they are pressured further to engage in damaging behaviors, like drugs and alcohol. These activities can lead to poor decisions with dangerous consequences, like sexual assaults.

Other stressors include being homesick, academic or personal competition, personal pressure to do well, social anxieties, and heavy workloads.

Students also feel stress when they get too little sleep, a poor diet and even from having too much downtime. Being expected to speak up in class, being disorganized and having a fear of change can lead to anxiety among students.

All these stressors can be treated and overcome.

Beat Stress in College

Campuses offer counseling services to students. Some colleges have established connections with external agencies to help students treat stress.

You can start with the on-campus counseling department. With a counselor, you can create a plan of action to help you beat stress. This may include weekly counseling, or it may include using other methods of destressing.

Some agencies provide peer mentoring to students. This allows you to get help from people your own age, other college students, who have succeeded at overcoming the stressors of college.

If further help is needed, you may choose to take part in longer-term counseling on campus. Or, you may find changing your residential surroundings to a more therapeutic environment is needed.

No matter what your stressor, there is help available on campus.

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