Juggling Act: The Life of a College Student

Wake up. Get dressed. Go to class. Go to your part-time job. Go to an unpaid internship. Try to find time for friends and somehow manage to get a few hours of sleep. The life of a college student is far from relaxing.

Finding a balance between all the elements of college can be hectic and stressful, and students across the country have to learn to adapt.

When in college, a person experiences a great amount of change very quickly, which can cause stress.

“On a scale of 1-10, I would rate my average stress level an 8, but there are periods of time where it is off the scale,” says Ohio University student Tricia Guilfoyle. She is not alone in suffering from this high amount of stress.

The study, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010,” shows the declining levels of emotional health in young students both in and entering college.

Only 52 percent of American college students rate themselves as having stable mental and emotional health, according to the study. This number has dramatically dropped since the 1980s, where that number was up to 70 pecent.

“There is stress that comes with college life which can include finances, working, taking care of your dorm, apartment, or house, taking care of a pet and so on,” Guilfoyle says.

Why is it that stress levels are reaching record highs for college students? One of the biggest challenges is finding a balance between studies, internships, jobs, and other aspects of a college student’s life, according to Julia Beyer, a career adviser at American University.

“It is a lot of juggling,” Beyer said. “The key is to know when to step back and make decisions on how to balance things a little better. Maybe instead of 20 hours a week at the internship, you take 10. There actually is quite a bit of flexibility with your schedule in college.”

Chestnut Hill College student Kelly Dennis found a way to balance her stressful academic schedule and her strong involvement in extracurricular activities. “I make sure I have time by using every hour in the day. I don’t waste time. If something needs to get done I will get it done before going on Facebook or going to bed,” Dennis says.

One major source of stress for college students is the cutthroat atmosphere they often put themselves in.

Finding a good internship that will provide a student with maximum opportunity for experience in their chosen field often seems hard, if not impossible, to find.

“The bottom line is [finding an internship is] competitive,” Beyer says.

But Beyer says finding work does not have to be as difficult as many college students make it. “I challenge students to think outside the box and consider smaller or medium sized organizations,” she said. “This way it’s a little bit easier to get that first internship when there’s not a long line of people clamoring to get in.”

The amount of stress put on America’s youth is often a source of great debate and concern. For those students that deal with it, it’s just a part of their life they have to work through.

Said Guilfoyle: “I firmly believe that with a positive attitude, support from family and friends, late-night chocolate & ice cream binges, and determination, all of the stress will pay off and a person will come out of college a well-rounded adult.”