Unhappy College Freshman

According to annual survey of 200,000 college freshman, their emotional state in 2010 was at its lowest point in the survey’s 25 years of data collection.  Among the survey’s findings, as reported by the linked article from The New York Times:

  • 52% of students said their emotional health was above average, compared to 64% in 1985, and the percentage of those reporting below average emotional health increased
  • Women surveyed always report “less positive view[s] of their emotional health than men,” and the gap was greatest in 2010
  • Sources of stress include their parents’ financial difficulties, the students’ uncertainty about their own economic futures, and self-generated pressure to excel
    • A record 75% of 2010 freshman reported themselves to be academically above-average

School of Management students continue to complain about grade deflation, even though our mean GPA’s have risen dramatically over the past five years.  Since the majority perceive themselves to be above average–the Lake Wobegon Effect–it’s no wonder their grading perspective is skewed.

One of my responses to this survey is appreciation for the challenges faced by undergraduate academic counselors.

4 thoughts on “Unhappy College Freshman”

  1. This something I learned about in my Developmental Psych class last semester. More and more college students are feeling mentally exhausted, overwhelmed, and they have this desire to achieve because of the nature of our environment becoming so competitive. Kids are truly putting so much pressure on themselves to do well. As a student myself, I find it difficult not to be concerned about grades because of the fact that it will matter after graduation when job hunting. It's going to play greatly into whatever I chose to do. Students hear it over and over again from teachers (this started in high school, or at least enough to be noticed) where people say things like grades are not the only deciding factor, only a deciding factor. It's hard to believe that.

    I've known many students that went to school around me that were straight A students there, but coming to college was so difficult for them that they didn't stand out. It's reality, but it can be depressing to those who face this experience. The deflation aspect of BU makes some students work harder, but it has the opposite effect I want to say on some, where they believe that "if they know they're only going to get grade X anyway, why try to overachieve?" In Psychology, we call this "self fulfilling prophecy," where if students tell themselves they can't excel, then they won't try as hard as they can. You can see where the emotional stress might start coming into play.

    But another side of the argument can be that students have a desire to achieve now, and along will that come with pressure, and maybe a failure to meet expectation but the pressure might not be from maintaining a grade to keep a scholarship or family troubles. People might just want to achieve because of how advanced our technology has become. It's so much easier to find information when needed. If I didn't get something in EC 102, I went on YouTube and looked up videos for the topic. We have access to them. There's no need to go do research at a library, rather we just have to type something into google to find an answer. It helps, and the added resources that my generation has will contribute to students feeling that they can achieve.

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