Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Whether all students recognize this or not, we all have a favor to ask from each other and those around us: Stop equating stress with success.
In countless college communities, students that do not seem visibly stressed are typically viewed as unsuccessful, and feel the need to place it upon themselves to “do more.” They take on internships along with a full-time class schedule and it seems to shift their view of college. Before reaching university, the image of a successful student life is painted as learning how to balance an education and social ventures, all which help undergraduates build the skills they need to be as successful as they wish to be once they graduate. However, many, especially those who aspire to work in more creative fields, soon find themselves in a heated race to get as much experience as possible alongside their full-time class schedules to get as far ahead of their peers as conceivable.
Working alters the way the student in question views the college experience. It no longer becomes about learning and growing — it turns into a rat-race of who can jumpstart his/her career the most effectively.
And to what end? College ceases to become a place for purely growth and education and turns into somewhat of an inhibitor to the building of a student’s career when it is truly meant to be a preceding experience that allows the student to decide what his/her career will turn out to be.
With job opportunity selection becoming increasingly competitive, the lack of a college experience begins to add to the already stressful situation of balancing jobs, schoolwork, and a social life.
In turn, the “successful students” are those who constantly test their limits in balancing internships, above-average class grades, and extracurricular activities, including socializing. The sheer amount of work and little rest these students feel they have time for becomes self-induced pressure that results in copious amounts of mental and physical stress. Even so, despite their mental states, they are lauded for their busy schedules and “prioritizing their career.”
As students, many of us must understand that one of the main causes of stress and destructive competition is allowing ourselves to become immersed in society’s constant prodding to push ourselves in disadvantageous ways. If we want to better our own quality of life, we must start with helping our environment. College should be a community we can attribute our personal and professional growth to. Focusing on the experience of learning or living on a campus should never be seen as something that could potentially set us behind.
It is time to change the way society approaches an educational environment like college. Universities should not be fixated on output regardless of what it does to their students. What takes precedence is the ability to create the college experience that educators promise. Stop teaching students that immense stress is the way to succeed. A healthy life is far more productive than one fueled by a constant need to stay ahead of others.
Students and universities, why don’t we show ourselves that we can be much more than what we are now?
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More on Mental Health on Campus:
What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need
If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help
The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis