You say it all the time, and you hear it, all the time.
"I'm so stressed out." "I'm just really stressed out." "I'm fine, it's just that I'm stressed out."
It's the constant cry of a college student. I can't tell you how many times I accidentally eavesdrop on someone when that phrase is said, or how many times I utter it myself. I genuinely think that not a day has gone by that I have not told someone how stressed out I was. As I write this article, it's just one more task I have to complete before setting to work on the thousands of others that lie ahead of me.
As a forewarning, this article will be more of a rant than it will be an organized and efficient article. But the purpose is not simply to rant; it is to inform those who are not living in the current day and age we college students are living in now.
I'm not underestimating the struggles that other generations have gone through at all. But I do think it is very important that those who are older (or even younger) than us, understand what makes our stress so unique. Times have changed; college isn't what it used to be. The requirements are higher, and the standards are harder. The time commitments are larger, and the circumstances we are going through in order to achieve this education we're working so hard for is monumental. So, from the point of view of a milennial, here is what I hope will be a well-rounded summary of the struggles current college students are facing:
School is hard; really hard.
Okay, well that's obvious. I can't stress this point loud enough. SCHOOL IS REALLY, REALLY HARD. I'm ignoring the work load while I'm making this point. This is the material I'm addressing. What we're learning can be very difficult to grasp. Even if the class we're taking is inside of our major, thus, we are better qualified to succeed in it, it is still extraordinarily complicated material. This is because standards have risen as the years have gone by. The material we have to cover in order to get our degrees is more advanced, more convoluted, and more mind-boggling than ever before. This goes for nursing majors, english majors, and fine arts majors alike. EVERY field of study is immensely challenging. But our stress goes beyond just the fact that the material we're learning is hard to learn; it goes so far as the fact that sometimes, we don't have the resources we need in order to progress to the understanding.
Professors aren't required to be competent. Many are; I've had many professors that have been extraordinary teachers. But professors aren't required to be good teachers. They are required to be smart and have a doctorate degree, and sometimes, not even that. Therefore, the information is being presented to us by somebody who might not be able to effectively convey it.
Now I know what your solution would be. "Get a tutor."
A lot of times, there isn't a tutor available for your subject. And even if there is, they work off of a personal schedule. Tutors are very helpful, but it can be very hard to arrange a meeting with them. Even if you can, that's just one more commitment you have to add to your day. Which brings me to the next source of stress.
We honestly don't have enough time in the day.
We have classes all day, and homework to complete for those classes. So with all of that time commitment, we don't always have time to get the extra help we need in order to actually understand the content we're studying. Now, if our day was JUST our classes, that would be one thing. We could go to class, complete the work, get extra help, and study for our exams. That sounds great.
But we still need money.
We are expected to work hard enough to have the money to have a place to live, a car to drive, and food to eat. That is a big financial responsibility. In order to fund that, we HAVE to work. We HAVE to have jobs. So we work as much as we can alongside our academic responsibilities. If we don't have a job in order to focus on school work, we're called lazy. If we do have a job, and it causes us to fall behind in our grades, then we're told we don't have good time management.
The problem isn't that we have poor time management; it's that we have too little time to manage.
Our time is crunched by more than just classes and jobs. We still have extra responsibilities in order to complete our degrees, whether that be internships, field placements, conferences, meetings, professional observations, etc. Even then, we need to do extra curricular activities in order to make ourselves more marketable in the career field. So much of our time is spent building our resumes so that we can actual make this education worthwhile and make money off of it someday. Plus, when you add in the fact that we still need to do normal people activities (grocery shopping, doctor's appointments, showering), we very rarely have a clear enough mind to effectively accomplish our priorities.
Did I mention that we're still people with relationships to maintain?
We have families. We have friends. We have significant others. What we don't have, is the time to be active in their lives as much as we would like. I have relatives I haven't spoken to in weeks because I can't always hop onto the computer and shoot them an email. My friends and I typically only get to talk on the weekends, and that's if we're lucky. Unfortunately, too many professors and people in places of authority don't have much sympathy for this. We're expected to be working machines that never lose a cog, instead of people with needs just the same as theirs.
And the debt...the debt is huge!
This college education costs thousands and thousands and thousand of dollars. We can't pay all of that now, because we work for minimum wage. And that money we make...well...we have to stay alive somehow, don't we? Students loans aren't the only bills we have to pay. So we take out all of these loans, and the money adds up, and even if we do survive college and find an okay-paying job, we're going to spend a large portion of our adult life paying it off. Will the stress never end?
So, college students...you're not alone. We're all in this together. But for those of you living these adult lives...if you've been through it, please remember our struggles and try to relate to us. For those of you who haven't...consider yourselves lucky, and stop telling us that "We signed up for this" or "If you only worked more" or "If you only worked less". You haven't been in our shoes, and I guarantee that you would have a hard time, too.
But here's to hoping we do make it out of here alive, and hopefully with significantly less grey hair than we're headed towards.