As the 2018 fall semester comes to a close, students across the nation are working to calm their minds and bodies from a few full weeks of straight stress and anxiety. For some, exams are a relevant representation of their semester of learning but for many others, final exams feel like a chance for professors to ask trick questions that don't even slightly represent the information learned. The ultimate question has become, are final exams really serving their purpose or are they leaving college students feeling lost, frustrated and slightly hopeless?
Psychology Today has been covering the mental health epidemic on college campuses extensively over the past ten years. Most recently, they posted an article stating that from 2006 to 2016 suicide and depression rates have seen a near 50% increase. This jump makes college students one of the most struggling age groups when it comes to mental health concerns. What could have changed so drastically in the past 10 years to cause such a great increase?
The traditional college environment has created a lethal atmosphere for both students struggling with their mental health and students that are not. Campuses provide an avenue for self-esteem issues, an unhealthy diet, alcohol and drug abuse, and many more abuse centered practices that result in depression and anxiety. This harmful atmosphere is made more lethal by the stress placed on the average student. The American Psychological Association reported staggering stress related statistics among college students in 2017. The ratio of college students to counseling staff averages at over 1,700:1. Approximately 61% of college students are seeking counseling help for anxiety and depression related issues. In the past 5 years, the percentage of students seeking professional help for mental health has increased by 30%.
At many high performing U.S. universities, final exams are worth up to 40% of a student's final grade. An entire semester of work boils down to one 50 questions multiple choice exam. How can 50 questions accurately represent nearly 4 months of weekly classes? Should one day and one exam really dictate these student's successes? Why is it that no one is paying attention to such an important group with such a widespread issue. College students are quite literally the backbone and future of our society. These students are struggling immensely and these struggles don't just go away upon graduation.
When asked about final exams and the stress of being a college student, a fellow UNC sophomore said, "Final exams are extremely stressful. Most of the content we're tested on is irrelevant in the grand scheme of the main idea of the class. Exam season is a time where my peers, and even myself, struggle mentally and physically. It takes me weeks to calm down from it all."
The holiday season shouldn't feel like a time where students have to recover from the damage done while at school. Younger generations deserve better. In many cases, the rigor of U.S. universities is part of the reason they're so successful. There's nothing wrong with challenging content but there is absolutely no reason to make students feel like they're constantly drowning all of the sake of a single grade or a college's reputation.