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  • Sarah Gale

College stress rates rise to new high

Trinity Brewer, a nursing student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, prepares for her final exams. (Photo courtesy: Sarah Gale)

This year, a record amount of college students reported they experienced extreme academic stress.

According to research from The American Addiction Center, a healthcare company, the total number of college students struggling with high-stress levels this year has risen to nearly 88%. Last school year, 60% of students reported high-stress levels.

“I’m not surprised the number has gone up. People seem to forget what we’ve gone through, getting used to school again after COVID-19,” said Yanel Quinteros, a Palm Beach Atlantic University freshman.

In 2017, this number was 45%, and steadily rose each following year. According to the National Library of Medicine, the pandemic increased the stress levels of 71% of students. The 2021 National College Health Assessment estimated almost three-quarters of all students have above-average stress levels.

The American Addiction Center published the results of a survey of 980 people who had graduated in the past five years. According to the survey, 83.3% of students consider financial problems to be a significant contributor to stress. Economic stress leads 38% of students to drop out of school. The average debt was $37,000 per surveyed student.

“The price [of tuition] distracts me from my studies,” Quinteros said.

Quinteros worries about how institutions raising tuition prices may prevent her from continuing her education.

The American Addiction Center results stated that students studying in both education and medical fields reported the most stress. The results of the study suggest that the primary concerns of these students are finding work outside of school, and competition among their peers. Despite increasing applicants for graduate school, several medical schools are decreasing their acceptance rates.

Trinity Brewer, a nursing major at PBA, said she was surprised education was tied with medical majors as the most stressful.

“It’s [a nursing major] is very demanding…I feel like I would be less stressed if I were majoring in education,” Brewer said.

The study suggested another reason for the spike in stress levels is upcoming exams. Exams were reported by 89.2% to be a stressful factor in their lives.

“Exams have been my main concern this semester because I have to keep up my GPA,” Brewer said.

However, not all students are stressed about final exams. Bethany Wolek, a PBA freshman, said she has been trying to be in the moment and take the semester one week at a time.

“I haven’t mentally focused on that [exams] yet, because I’m just taking things day by day,” Wolek said.

The American Stress Institution states that stress can significantly affect mental and physical health. According to their research, students may experience frequent headaches, lack of sleep, social withdrawal and neglect of their physical well-being.

Angela Garcia, a former dual enrollment student at Mid-America Christian University, said she felt overwhelmed by the end of her first semester. Garcia had a difficult time balancing her 15 college credits and five high school courses.

“I was always in school and never had time for a break,” Garcia said.

By November, Garcia’s stress had caused several health problems, including a stomach ulcer. Garcia dropped out of her college classes and took a three-month break from high school to recuperate fully.

“Spending all your time and energy in class makes your body crash and burn,” Garcia said.

Garcia was unsurprised by the increase in college students’ stress levels.

“They stress because it’s the most work they’ve ever done and the tuition bills are the highest they have ever been,” Garcia said.

By Sarah Gale

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