13 Reasons Why Gen Z Stress About University
In this 13 Reasons Why series we explore the different problems Gen Z are dealing with as told to us by them. Through their own words we’ll see what leads to young people’s mental health problems.
How does university stress thee? Let me count the ways.
You don’t want to go there but you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders saying you’re a failure if you don’t. Or you do genuinely want to go there but you’re in a competition against your hyper-competitive classmates to get into the best one. It’s sandstone or nothing.
Or how about when you’re at university but the honest to god truth is you don’t even know if you’ve picked what it is you actually love. Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?
Then there’s when you’ve picked what you love but you’ve got the weight of your own expectation on yourself not to fail. Maybe it’s not just to not fail, but you’re driving yourself to exhaustion to get your name up on the dean’s list.
There’s also just being able to keep your head above water. You’re working a job so you can feed yourself while trying to fit in the time to study for your big exams. Everyone has their own unique set of circumstances, maybe you’ve got a family to help out, or your own personal problems to juggle with unforgiving deadlines.
Then after you’ve got that bit of paper there’s the huge debt waiting for you. And then there’s that cherry on top, that sweet taste of insecurity and uncertainty when you don’t even know if that bit of paper is gonna get you the job you dreamed of. Did you just do all that for nothing? Who knows when the stress of that question hanging over you will ever end.
There’s no doubt the whole process of getting into, passing and then building your life after university is one of the most stressful parts of many people’s lives. This is especially so for the 20% of first-year uni students who drop out of their degrees each year which you can read more about in our free report Here Comes The Drop.
Stress. Anxiety. Depression. For some it all becomes too much. And it could be more widespread than you think. Through our research surveying over 2000 young Australians aged 15 to 19 we’ve found 68% have experienced struggles with their mental health. When we asked them what they see as their biggest struggles, the top four were figuring out their future, money/finance, their studies and their mental health.
At YouthSense with the trust of our Year13 audience we’re in a privileged position where young people tell us things they often don’t even reveal to their friends and family. From the issues affecting them today to their concerns for the future, we dive into what’s on their mind so our readers can better respond to their needs.
Here we’ll take a look at why young people stress about university. And what they do to deal with it.
1. Square peg in a round hole
“The future causes the most stress for me as I am confused about what exactly I want to do. I have such a variety of passions and like so many things and want to go to uni. However nothing there really makes me more interested and excited to learn. I find it extremely frustrating not knowing what I want out of life and this makes me stress even further. Currently I am at uni knowing I am going to drop out because I don’t like it but I just don’t know where to go next and need some help deciding but don’t know who to reach out to for the answers. I am trying to deal with it by staying optimistic but am recently struggling and trying to find new ways to deal with it.” 18/F/NSW
2. Alone in the crowd
“Suddenly becoming so much more lonely. In high school you are surrounded by people you know all the time, even if they aren’t your best friend you can get a long with anyone there. Completely surrounded by people at uni, I still feel completely alone. The stability of the friendships made at uni are like high heels on cobblestones – moments from falling apart. It’s hard to know where to start after being in a school environment for 13 years. I never knew what it felt like to feel so isolated while still surrounded by over 800 people in a lecture.”
“Currently my biggest stress is not knowing when a depressive episode will hinder my ability to perform at university. This is dealt with by voicing my fears, speaking to others about my problems, and not dwelling on the idea as that can in itself trigger mental health problems.”
4. Financial pressure
“At the moment, it’s mainly university applications. It’s ground I’ve never treaded before so it’s nerve wracking not knowing if I’m sufficiently organised. The fact that I also have to consider my family’s financial situation as lower middle class immigrants also adds pressure to get into a university that either has low tuition or offers scholarships. I also feel the need to find the right course for me on the first try so as to not waste time or money or unnecessary courses. Just the whole unknown territory of being independent and applying successfully to a uni is my main source of stress.”
5. Feeling torn
“The thing that causes me the most stress in my life is finding where I want to go in life. As I am in my senior year of high school there is a very heavy amount of pressure placed onto me regarding where I want to head in the future. My mother is strongly for me going to university as I have the grades to get in, however, do not know what I would want to study. Which is why, on the other hand, my stepmother is very much against me choosing to go to university. I struggle to deal with this stress and break down a lot. To be honest, I deal with my stress by ignoring my problems which is a very unhealthy habit.”
6. Trying to keep up
“The most difficult thing will be the dramatic amount of responsibilities and expectations for people after they leave school. For example getting into uni, and whether or not they got into an affluent uni, and are they studying a degree that will make them successful in the future, and how if one doesn’t go to uni they are heavily questioned as to why.”
7. Great expectations
“Academic performance. I’ve been on the dean’s list since I started university and I work myself to sickness every semester to make sure I stay on it. I keep my end goal in mind, and remind myself that it’ll be worth it in the end.”
8. More to life
“The pressure placed by society on the idea that college determines how well we will do in the future and only by achieving a very high result will we be successful in employment/life. I try to meditate and practice yoga/do something that makes me remember there are more important things and/or spend time with special people in my life. To remember that although I would like to do well there are other options for future education and employment.”
9. Scrimping and saving
“For me at the moment the thing that makes me stress is the thought of how much my university and living fees will cost when I move out and start uni. I plan to take a gap year to try earn as much money before I go to university to try and lessen the debt I will likely have.”
“Being unsure about what career I want to pursue, as through year 12 there was pressure to have your life planned out before you even left school. Although I am currently at university I am constantly considering different careers/pathways but I just don’t know what to do or choose. Where everyone around me seems to be studying something they are passionate about or have an interest in. And I haven’t found that yet.”
11. Balancing act
“The most stress at this time is trying to balance university study and earning money/maintain a job. My university expects students in the masters to not have a job and focus solely on university but unfortunately that is such poor and detrimental advice as you can’t live day to day without maintaining a job. It’s stressful keeping up with your work load and trying to earn enough money with little support from both work and uni so at times it becomes stressful having to choose one or the other leading to a win lose situation. It’s dealt with through comprising work and holding a casual job that is open to change and can be moved around university and also using the university counsellor to talk too and support your special consideration requests to help with achieving quality learning.”
12. Family matters
“My family and study causes the most stress in my life as I do want to spend time with my family but I have a very big university workload and as my parents didn’t finish school they don’t understand this and complain that I never do anything with the family. I then feel guilty and stress about how I can manage my time to do both of a somewhat equal time. However to deal with it I go to libraries after attending university to try and complete the most amount of work I can so that when I get home I can spend as much time possible with my family.”
13. Working for who
“The thing that causes the most stress is the overwhelming expectation put on you throughout high school and university. Everyone demands you to do your best in order to achieve the best results which is incredibly stressful because now you have to make others proud at the cost of your mental health. I deal with it through seeing my psychologist and trying to prioritise my own goals over the expectations of others.”