57% of Female and 40% of Male College Students Experience Overwhelming Stress

Posted By Terri Williams on October 27, 2015 at 3:17 pm
57% of Female and 40% of Male College Students Experience Overwhelming Stress

According to recent research from Robert Neuman, who spent 25 years as Dean of Academic Advising at Marquette University and now specializes in college preparedness, 57% of female and 40% of male college students experience overwhelming anxiety.

These findings are similar to those in The American Freshman Survey, conducted yearly by UCLA. For two consecutive years (2013 and 2014), incoming freshmen have reported concerns with college expectations and performance. When asked to choose from a list of 30+ factors negatively affecting their academic performance, the top three responses were:

Contributing Factors Percentage of Respondents
Stress 28.5%
Anxiety 19.7%
Sleep disorders 19.4%


Students were also asked, “Within the last 12 months, how would you rate the overall level of stress experienced?”

Male Female
No stress 3.9% 1.0%
Less than average stress 13.3% 5.5%
Average stress 40.0% 36.7%
More than average stress 34.9% 45.4%


What’s fueling these stress and anxiety levels for college students? GoodCall invited several experts to share their views.

Adjusting to college life

April Masini, a relationship expert and author who runs a popular relationship advice site, AskApril.com, cautions against underestimating the effects of the pressure placed on incoming freshmen students. “Just because your child got straight A’s in high school doesn’t mean that they can handle the academic rigors of college where they may be in classes with all the other straight A students from other high schools.”

Masini explains, “Going from a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond is stressful, and being academically ready is not the same as being college-ready.” She says that being college-ready includes the ability to handle life decisions that run the gamut from academic dynamics to roommate dynamics, as well as many other issues students may encounter.

Financial concerns

The rising cost of a college degree and the subsequent return on investment may also be contributing factors. Dr. Joshua Lawrence, Director of Counseling Services at Husson University in Bangor, Maine, says students are increasingly aware of the
 financial costs related to education and have more fears related to 
their prospects for post-graduate employment.

In fact, in a recent survey of 2,039 students at 50 different college campuses, 65% of respondents said they have decided against buying a college textbook because it was too expensive, and 61% were concerned that it would negatively affect their grade in that course.

Other research indicates that the cumulative $369 billion student loan debt for consumers under the age of 30 has led to a decrease in home ownership among millennials, showing the long-term and far-reaching effects of student debt.

Power parents

“Power parents” may also be a contributing factor, according to Melissa Cohen, a licensed social worker and coach who works with teens and parents and tackles issues related to college. Cohen, who is also the author of ParentKnowledgy – A (Simple) Guide to Surviving Your Teen,

 says power parents overload their children with 
every possible experience and activity to position them for promising opportunities in the future.

“This process, while giving the 
children life lessons, also places excessive pressure on them to succeed and
 allows little room for failure. By the time our children go to college,
 they are most worried about disappointing their parents,” she asserts.  

In addition, she says all 
of the help and support teens have had throughout their high school years is 
no longer available when they leave home and they are left without those
 safety nets.

What’s the solution?

So – how can parents help to alleviate stress among their college-aged kids?

According to Gina DeLapa, who spent four years as a career counselor at Grand Valley State University and authored the book Stuff You Already Know And Every College Student Should, one of the best ways parents can help is to let their kids know that stress is normal and curable. “I experienced stress and homesickness when I moved across the country for grad school, and I was in my thirties, so I don’t think anyone escapes.”

DeLapa says, “Sometimes you just have to breathe your way through it and remind yourself it will get better. Two of the real keys to taming stress include being on top of assignments, and of course getting sufficient sleep.”

And if parents are effectively managing their own stress, DeLapa says it will be easier for them to recognize and understand how and when to help their kids. However, she advises parents against fighting the battles of their college-age kids, and instead recommends offering support and a sounding board. “If we step in and do the hard work for students, we rob them of the role that is rightfully theirs. We deny them the ability to grow in ways that will serve them for a lifetime. It’s better to encourage students to use the resources around them, rather than making all other resources unnecessary.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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