Roughly 1,300 college students make the fatal and final decision to commit suicide each year. Even when one considers the large number of students who attend college on a yearly basis, that number is incredibly high. There are many reasons why college students are apt to this kind of conduct. Anyone who has been to college understands that the process is stressful. There is a reason why colleges invest money and time each year into teaching stress management techniques and providing students with resources to deal with their problems. What causes all of this stress? The cause of stress for college students has to do with performance pressure, adjustments to a new lifestyle, and doubts about various elements of the future.
One of the most pressing causes of stress in college students comes from performance pressure. This pressure can be the result of many different sources. Some students suffer from a mild form of perfectionism. This students put internal pressure on themselves to perform, and they are very critical of themselves when they fail. One of the corollaries of perfectionism is that students tend to practice avoidance when they do fall short, leading to even more stress. In other cases, performance pressure can be applied from the outside. Demanding parents or teachers can make a student feel as if the entire world is riding on a positive result in a class.
In addition to performance pressure, many students can struggle with stress related to their lifestyle change. College is not all about going to classes. It is also about learning to manage money, learning to make choices without the help of one’s parents, and developing a social life. This is a very important thing for students, and it creates a tremendous amount of difficulty. Adjustments to lifestyle can throw a student off of his routine, and it can make a student feel as if he does not have the support that he needs in order to be successful. These things are especially important for foreign students, as they have the culture shock of coming to a new country to deal with.
In addition, uncertainty about one’s future can be a major cause of stress. College is a time when a person is trying to figure out what is going to become of his life. In some cases, a difficult economy or a tough job market can make it seem as if the future is very uncertain. Likewise, these uncertainties about the future can pour over into other parts of a student’s life. How is a student to regulate the concept of having a family? These things produce doubts in the student, and doubts are the spice of life that ultimately causes students to suffer from various forms of stress.
At the end of the day, stress is a complex thing. For college students, there is no one explanation to why the experience is such a stressful one. Perhaps the best explanation of stress in college students is that the entire experience of college can be more overwhelming than its individual parts. College students suffer from stress because of internal and external pressure to perform. In addition, the entire adjustment to the lifestyle of a college student makes college more stressful. Lastly, the unknown nature of the future can contribute to stress. Students who are forced to deal with one or more of these factors will often find that the college environment is a difficult one that does not reward them. This is why so many students drop out or decide to commit suicide in college.
- Misra, R., McKean, M., West, S., & Russo, T. (2000). Academic stress of college students: comparison of student and faculty perceptions. College Student Journal, 34(2).
- Ross, S. E., Niebling, B. C., & Heckert, T. M. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. Social Psychology, 61(5), 841-846.