College, Stress and the Student
Stress is no new phenomenon. It’s been around as long as man and has captivated scholars and physicians alike. With the growing demand for degrees in the professional world comes the growth of the number of college students. The relationship between stress and college students has become the subject of on-going research. Several studies show that stress in college students is increasing with time and the authors of those studies are attributing this to an increased number of students. Other research seems to indicate that it isn’t necessarily the stress that is increasing but the awareness of it. Increased awareness of stress, and its unique toll on individuals, allows colleges and students to recognize areas of concern and work together to address, manage and control it.
College is a stressful time in anyone’s life but research has shown it to be more stressful to women than men. In a study of male and female graduate students, “females reported more stress than males in all areas” (Murphy and Archer 20). In addition to being female students, research has shown that mothers with young children experience significantly more stress than their fellow students. Malcom D. Hill, Ph.d, and Associate Professor of Sociology at Pennsylvania State University, studied older female students and found that most enjoyed the distraction that school brought from their everyday lives. “The only returnees who experienced serious stress, however, were those with very young children, which wasn’t surprising” (qtd. in Gutfeld and Munson). These women often have to arrange for child care, miss class due to sick children and must juggle caring for their children while still completing tasks on time. They often stay up late at night to complete assignments, while waking up throughout the night and early in the morning with their children. Sleep deprivation, in turn, exaggerates the symptoms of stress and it becomes a vicious cycle.
I began my first semester of school when my daughter was thirteen months old. Up to that point, I was a stay at home mom. I enrolled her into the college’s childcare and would drop her off before class. That was the first time I had ever left her with anyone outside of our family and she was also at the age where toddlers begin their separation anxiety phase. Every morning, I would have to pull her off of my leg and run out the door as she chased after me, completely devastated. Her screams and the look of utter betrayal on her face were the last memories I would have of her before going off to class. This made it extremely hard for me to focus on lectures or recall information and increased my stress levels, especially during exams.
Students’ state of mental and emotional health will contribute to the way that stress manifests and presents itself, once he or she enters college. “The emerging categories related to sleep and health problems could be a manifestation of a general increasing level of stress...