Pre-College Anxiety

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Anxiety is a major problem in the developed world, and the anxiety mental health crisis affects all people. A particularly vulnerable part of the population is high school students transitioning to college. The UCLA Higher Education Research Institute published a study in 2010 detailing this crisis. According to the study, high school seniors are feeling overwhelmed, tired, and anxious. At the same time, the survey reports that high school seniors perceive their academic ability to be rising. In other words, the pressure to compete is staggering and causes enormous amounts of anxiety in pre-college students. Combined with the financial burdens of attending a college or university, this induced anxiety poses a major problem.

Too Much Pressure and No Outlet

College, of course, is different for everyone. The average premedical student is likely to feel more stressed out than the average English literature student. Nevertheless, this study indicates that anxiety affects a wide variety of incoming college freshmen. The pressure to succeed in high school is immense. Standardized tests, class rankings, exam curves, weighted classes, AP exams, extracurricular activities, part time jobs – the list goes on and on, and students consequently have very little time to relax and recharge. Before they even set foot on the grounds of their new campus, students are already under far too much pressure.

College Anxiety Affects Men and Women Differently

This anxiety, however, does not affect everyone equally. According to the study, twice as many female students are likely to feel overwhelmed before entering college than male students. The reason for this proportional difference was not given in the study’s article. One possible explanation is that female students feel a greater drive to succeed and stand apart from their male counterparts. Another possibility is that men do not feel as comfortable expressing their emotional needs, thus leading to lower reporting rates.

De-Stressing in College: Choosing the Right Solution

What is to be done about this mental health problem? As always, there is no one specific solution. Reducing the financial burdens on incoming college students is definitely one way to ease anxiety. But, more importantly, there must be mental health education for all students. Students need the proper tools for managing their daily stresses. In high school, students learn mathematics, how to write, how to keep their bodies healthy, and how to socialize. But, they do not learn how to keep their minds healthy.

Perhaps students also feel as though mental health issues are taboo. Given this possibility, more resources must be made available for them to access in private via the Internet. Promoting a change in how achievement is measured and seen is also important. Learning the basics of mindfulness, reflection, and being present with oneself are fundamental parts of maturing into healthy adults, and these skills must be developed in order to sustain our communities.

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