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Is Your College Student Stressed Out?

The end of the semester is fast approaching, and you know what that means: FINALS! REGISTRATION! MOVING OUT OF THE DORM! I NEED TO FIND A SUMMER JOB!

What? That’s not what came to your mind? I can almost guarantee that if you have a college student in your family, that’s exactly what’s going through their mind.

If you are the parent of a college student, or perhaps you minister to one, you need to know that students’ stress levels increase significantly this time of year. According to the Student Development (SD) department at Biola University, there are six possible reasons for this:

Six Reasons Your College Student is Stressed Out

1. Loneliness

As the weight of homework increases, some students withdraw from social activities, thus increasing their feelings of isolation and loneliness.

2. Academic pressure

Academic pressure is beginning to mount because of procrastination, difficulty of work, and lack of ability.  Also, mid-terms and finals!

3. Inability to figure out or achieve goals

Following registration, students often experience confusion over major or career goals and/or frustration over not getting the classes they want or need.

4. Inability to adjust to college life

As the semester progresses, depression and anxiety increase because of feelings that he/she should have adjusted to the college environment by now.

5. Pre-break depression

Feelings of depression can set in for those who have no home to visit and for those who prefer not to go home because of family conflicts.

6. Opinion overload

According to Greg McKeown, author of Essential, “It’s not just the number of choices that has increased exponentially, it is also the strength and number of outside influences on our decision that that has increased. Today, technology has lowered the barrier for others to share their opinion about what we should be focusing on. It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.”

So, given these very real stressors, what can you as a parent, friend or mentor do to help? 

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” - Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NLT) 

How to Help

1. Show that you care

First, be interested! Show your student that you are aware it is a difficult time of life for them and that you really do care. A great way to do this is by arranging time for a deeper conversation. It can be by phone or in person, but either way, set aside some time to ask your student the four following questions:

  1. How are you taking care of yourself? Research shows only 11% of students report experiencing healthy amounts of sleep.
  2. Who are you connecting with? Studies show that at this age, peers have more influence on a college student’s life than parents, professors or pastors.
  3. How are you owning your academic journey? Students that participate in one or two internships have a much higher chance of landing a job in their targeted field.
  4. What is God up to in the midst of your circumstances? Cultivating spiritual grounding, calmness and composure enhances student GPAs, psychological well-being, and satisfaction with college.

2. Be a good listener

Second, listen well. The key to understanding your student is to suppress your desire to persuade, advise or correct and just listen. The writer of Proverbs 18:13 put it this way: “To answer before listening-- that is folly and shame.” Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, professor of communication at Biola University, says listening well involves two things:

  1. Perspective-taking – the attempt to see the world through the eyes of your student.
  2. Asking questions – “When did you first start to think this way?” “What individuals or books have shaped your thinking most on this?” “What experiences have helped you clarify your thinking?”

God has uniquely wired us for relationships, and we have a basic deep-seated need to connect. When you take time to focus on your student’s heart – their thoughts, emotions, and views – you not only connect through rich conversation, but you express your love. Your student will recognize and appreciate the value of such an authentic demonstration of your care, your support and your desire to truly understand him/her. The result should be that your student’s stress level decreases and that they head into the last few weeks of school emotionally prepared to finish strong.  

When you take time to focus on your student’s heart – their thoughts, emotions, and views – you not only connect through rich conversation, but you express your love.