Stress in college is inevitable. Today, as undergraduate degrees become the norm, college students face a tremendous amount of pressure. Pressure to perform well academically, the increasing cost of undergraduate education, and developmentally still learning and growing – college students face a large amount of stress during a unique time in their lives. What are college students most concerned about? How are they coping and adapting to this stressful time?
In a survey on stress among over 300 undergraduate students, students rated academic performance, pressure to succeed, and post-graduate plans to be the most stressful and concerning.1 While these concerns were positively correlated with stress, they were also positively correlated with anxiety and depressive symptoms, highlighting the relationship between stress and mental health problems. Interestingly, students living off-campus scored the highest on stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, followed by transfer students.1 This highlights the importance of campus connection for well-being.
Other research on undergraduates has focused on high and low stress tolerance, with high stress tolerance scores indicating that the student was able to better manage stress. One study found that feeling supported by family, friends, and professors was the single most significant protective factor for high stress tolerance.2 Risk factors for low stress tolerance, however, were external coping sources, such as cleaning, calling a friend or relative, shopping, social networking, and using substances when stressed.2
While all college students are susceptible to stress, knowing who is more vulnerable to stress, such as students living off-campus and transfer students, can be helpful in identifying who may need more resources. Similarly, providing constructive positive feedback to students may aid in increasing their feeling of support at SPU, reducing their risk of developing low stress tolerance. Overall, as college students navigate the stressful experience of college, we can be supportive by acknowledging the stressors in their lives and doing what we can to promote a positive and supportive environment.
1Beiter, R., Nash, R., McCrady, M., Rhoades, D., Linscomb, M., Clarahan, M., & Sammut, S. (2015). The prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and stress in a sample of college students. Journal of Affective Disorders, 173, 90-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.10.054
2Bland, H. W., Melton, B. F., Welle, P., & Bigman, L. (2012). Stress tolerance: New challenges for millennial college students. College Student Journal, (2)46, 361-375.