The pursuit to perfection


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Ethan Pham

College is meant to be a place of education, growth and learning. What happens far too often is the overwhelming pressure to succeed in college leads to severe issues that affect many students across campuses in America.

A survey conducted by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute examined 150,000 students nationwide. The survey found that 9.5 percent of respondents “felt depressed” and 36.6 percent “felt overwhelmed.”

College is often hailed as the path to success and achievement in life, and we’re told failure will lead to a life of struggle and stress. This type of pressure is amplified by society, family and friends to succeed and can leave students with harmful and damaging mental health problems. We are expected to breeze through college and acquire accolades, awards and scholarly success, but those who do attempt to achieve all this are often struggling.

Coming to college, I learned so much and I surpassed my previous self. I learned to lead, manage my time, and I keep learning and growing my skill set. All of this lead me to pursue all I could and make my college experience a fantastic one. I decided in my final semester I wanted to really knock it out of the park, but I may have struck out this semester.

I am the managing editor of The Paisano, president of the UTSA chapter of the American Advertising Federation, a part-time internship and I take a full course load. On top of that, I try to maintain a good relationship with my boyfriend, keep a healthy lifestyle and have fun from time to time. I really wanted to achieve all that I could and leave UTSA as a student to remember.

All of this hit me hard. I spent my days running to my next responsibility, doing obscene amounts of work and trying to stay bright, happy and positive. It got so overwhelming that I had a long episode of extreme depression, insomnia and anxiety. Now I sit here, on the verge of failing a few of my classes, consistently exhausted and rarely being able to rest. I felt like I was trapped and there was no escape. I would be lying if I said suicide never entered my mind, and while I would never do that, there are far too many students who consider it.

The National College Health Assessment of 2013 found that of 125,000 student surveyed across 150 universities and colleges, one-third of U.S. college student had difficulty functioning in the last 12 months due to depression and nearly half had overwhelming anxiety within the last year. In another statistic found by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health in 2014, over 30 percent of students who sought out mental health service had seriously considered attempting suicide at some point in their lives.

I am beyond lucky to be a student whose parents pay for my time at college. But many, students are expected to attend college, become involved in extracurricular activities, get good grades and on top of that have to worry about their finances and the debt they acquire semester after semester.

We need to loosen expectations of college and understand that we are here to learn and get an education. University life should expand our life, not bog us down with immense amounts of stress and frustration. Professors often comment that their class should be a priority if the students want to pass, but in reality, every class is a priority to the student. We need to make the environment more understanding and allow students to feel comfortable talking about stress and issues so these can be resolved.

When I finally reached out to some of my professors, I was already broken, and maybe if I wasn’t expected to be so perfect I would have felt more comfortable letting them know what was going on. We need to not make students feel that if they do poorly in college, they will do poorly in life. We can retake classes and extend college, but the mental issues can last with us for the remainder of our lifetime. Let’s try to make college an expansion to our life, not a necessity to live a happy one.