Study show emotional health for new students is on the decline

Long ago, when I was working on my first degree, I envied those students whose parents paid for everything. All they had to do was focus on their studies.

Long ago, when I was working on my first degree, I envied those students whose parents paid for everything. All they had to do was focus on their studies.

They didn’t have part-time jobs nor did they have to worry about paying rent, buying groceries and in some cases they didn’t even have to worry about doing laundry.

This is why I was surprised when I recently read an article which reported low levels of emotional health for first-year college and university students.

In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute which is part of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, began to survey students about their emotional well-being.

Back then, depression was an issue but most felt they had a positive emotional state.

Twenty-five years later, not only are students indicating that their emotional health is dropping, but students are now citing anxiety as the culprit.

According to the study, emotional health has decreased at the same time the drive to achieve has gone up.

It seems that students today are overwhelmed with the need to succeed.

I wonder if this isn’t exacerbated by concern about the state of the economy and the significant investment that tuition represents.

Recently I met a young woman who – for the first time in her life – had failed two courses.

She was distraught and couldn’t figure out how that could happen to her.

She was stressed out and I could tell that she had a hard time accepting the fact that she failed.

She lived at home and her parents paid for everything, including her tuition, and now she just wasted $800 on two courses and had nothing to show for it.

On top of all of this, she felt guilty, because she knew her parents did not have a lot of money and it was struggle for them to pay for her schooling.

So she was experiencing enormous pressure—both at home and at school.

As a young adult she was faced with having to inform her mom and dad that she would not graduate in June.

She was not looking forward to this conversation as she would have to tell them that she would be required to re-do the courses she failed, thereby costing them more money. For the first time she would disappoint them.

Long ago, when I supported myself and paid all my tuition, the responsibility was all mine to get my degree. Not as many parents paid for their children’s education in those days so although we had pressure, we didn’t have the same types of pressure.

I don’t know what’s worse. Being responsible to someone else to get those high grades creates a lot more anxiety when the real reason you should strive for good grades is for yourself.

You see, although ambition is a good thing, I believe it is best when it is your own.

Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College.

jmuskens@okanagan.bc.ca

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