According to a national study, levels of stress and depression in college freshmen continue to rise.
The study, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” exposes the declining levels of emotional health in young students entering college. The results reveal an increased percentage of students who classify themselves as having “below average” emotional health.
Leaving high school and entering an institution of higher learning means new responsibilities, increased academic rigor and finding social acceptance in an entirely new environment.
“Coming into college for the first time, I was worried about how my classes would be because I come from a really small town,” freshman art major Lacey Villalobos said. “I didn’t know how big the class sizes would be or how everything would work because it’s so different from what I was used to.”
“Most of my stress comes from making sure I do well in my classes and keeping my grades up,” freshman business major Joshua Benavides said.
Barbara Smith, executive director of advising for Undergraduate Studies Support and Technology Services, says culture shock and an unfamiliar environment can often cause students to feel overwhelmed.
“The exposure to new ideas or other beliefs may be outside of their usual comfort zone,” Smith said.
Aside from being exposed to an unfamiliar environment, students feel the stress of financial demands in their college careers.
Even for freshmen—who are only at the start of their academic careers and will not begin a post-graduation job search for several years—the unstable economy appears to be a key stressor for many of the students surveyed.
At college campuses across the nation, where students work and attend school simultaneously, finding a career after obtaining their degree is not the only economic stress occupying the minds of undergraduates.
“Students now have a unique kind of pressure in that most freshmen you see are not only taking full time classes but they’re also working either part time or full time,” said writing program lecturer, Amanda Williams. “That’s a stress that many of us, when we were freshmen, didn’t have,” Williams said.
Some of the emotional strain can be attributed to students’ expectations of themselves.
“Many more students are going to college than before,” Mathematics Department Chair Francis Norman said. “In many respects, some students are not as well-prepared for college.
“There is a lot of pressure to go to college, and that certainly puts a premium on success. Students are stressed when they feel like failure will impact their career and future.”
Students are encouraged to use resources provided by UTSA to manage increased pressures.
“I think it’s important that students understand what’s out there for them,” Smith said. “The Tomas Rivera Center (TRC) offers tutoring and supplemental instruction, which is more to handle the academic side. Then there are student organizations to help with making a connection, which is really crucial for some students. Then there’s also counseling services to really help with stress management.”