Adults love to undercut the struggles of today’s college student. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” they taunt condescendingly, usually over a holiday dinner you aren’t thrilled to be at in the first place.
In a way, they’re right. College offers the freedom of adulthood without the crushing responsibility.
But when they say it’s easy, even by comparison, they’re sorely mistaken. Just look at the data.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health problems on college campuses, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Forty million U.S. adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, and 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by age 22.
Additionally, a 2008 Associated Press and mtvU survey found that 39 percent of college students say they frequently experience stress in their daily lives.
In 2011, a nationwide survey of college students at two- and four-year institutions found that about 30 percent of students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year.
Mental health disorders are a growing problem on college campuses, partly due to increased mental health awareness and partly due to the pressure to get good grades and find a decent job after graduation. A degree doesn’t guarantee a career anymore.
Besides, students are busier than ever. A student taking six classes – three Tuesday-Thursday and three Monday-Wednesday-Friday – spends 16 hours and 15 minutes in class.
“That’s nothing!” adults scoff. And they have a point.
But what if a student spends an hour on homework for every hour he or she is in class. Suddenly, the time commitment doubles to 32 1/2 hours.
“Still less than a full-time job!” the angry baby boomers grunt. Once again, they’re correct.
We haven’t addressed anything other than classes, though. An on-campus job, for example, consumes about 10 hours a week.
Thirty-two and half hours devoted to schoolwork plus 10 hours on the job equals a “student work week” of 42 1/2 hours. Now let’s add extracurriculars.
Most students are involved in at least a couple of activities – SGA, APB, club sports or honor societies. They run the campus radio station and volunteer at the MLK Center. They perform RA duties and support campus ministry.
Participating in clubs and organizations is a double-edged sword. It’s a fun, integral aspect of the college experience, but it’s also incredibly stressful at times.
I’m not saying there isn’t plenty to love about college. You’re surrounded by people your age, student loan payments haven’t come due and the opportunities are endless.
I’m only arguing that when you say I don’t have a care in the world, you’re wrong. You’re not taking into account the workload students are handed in and out of the classroom. You’re also failing to acknowledge those students who are paying their own way – textbooks, groceries, transportation, cell phone bills, etc.
Adults: your words of wisdom, no matter how well-intentioned, are not necessarily appreciated. The reality of adulthood is just another thing students have to learn on their own.