College stress flies, with a little help from friends

Jakob Lopez

The American Freshman Survey, a cooperative institutional research program at UCLA, reported the college freshmen who began university in 2014 had the lowest level of emotional health measured by the survey — just 50.7 percent reported above-average emotional health.

For UTSA’s 5,000 incoming freshmen, the fall semester may seem both exciting and daunting.

UTSA has steadily increased its admissions standards over the past several years to encourage academic excellence and four-year graduation. Pressure to complete a degree in four years requires students complete a heavy course load each semester. Furthermore, adapting to a new environment and being away from home may cause the pressure to swell.

Sometimes these strains cause freshmen to retreat to their dorm rooms and apartments.

According to the American Freshman Survey, college freshmen spend less time socializing and more time studying and interacting on social networks. The survey showed that 38.8 percent of these students spend less than five hours each week with friends; 18 percent spend more than 16 hours weekly with friends.

Compared to previous data, these figures represent a decrease in social interaction. In 1987, more than half of the students surveyed said they spent 16 hours or more per week socializing with friends.

While a decreased level of social interaction does not directly result in depression or academic decline, it may be a harbinger of poor mental health.

Face-to-face social interactions benefit students greater than face-to-screen virtual interactions. Friends can share the burdens of students’ stress, and the act of building friendships is often mentally and emotionally stimulating; these engagements, as a result, may have a positive impact on emotional health.

College does not need to be stressful. The university is a place where students can discover who they are and forge their career paths to where they wish to go.

College gives freshmen the opportunity to explore, make new friends, and embrace their new environment. Socializing with friends helps freshmen cope with these new stresses in their lives.

They are better equipped to face these challenges with a little help from their friends. They cultivate these friendships through face-to-face interaction. What better way to combat stress and improve emotional health?