If you type the words “University makes me” into a google search bar, the predictive text would read- depressed, anxious, miserable, sad, and suicidal. Higher education is a major stressor and most students experience a deep sense of anxiety and discomfort in college.
College life is an over-glamorised concept across all cultures. While Bollywood films portray college as a place where you dress up, drive sports cars and meet the love of your life, American films portray it as four-years of alcohol, debauchery, and fun. Imagery like parties, pranks, bonding, is recurrent in films related to college life. As a consequence of this conditioning, most of us are not prepared for college life. We anticipate higher education to mean lots of fun and freedom with a healthy dose of learning. However, it turns out to be a challenging experience where deadlines, attendance, and scores, matter more than ever.
Most students in college seem to be exceptionally unhappy with how things seem to be turning out. The truth is college life, from its very beginning, sets us up for disappointment. In a rat-race fuelled competitive world, only a few of us are able to make it into our dream college. Those of us who do are disillusioned by how different it seemed from what we had expected it to be; while those who don’t spend a long time fixated on their loss. Once we move out of the initial shock of not being where we wanted to be, the idea of engaging and participating in multiple activities beyond lectures comes forward. Students are repeatedly told to make the best out of college life; they must seek participation in as many activities as possible. This results in a second rat race of better internships and opportunities that need to be grabbed. More often than not, these jobs are unpaid because of how readily available the interns are. Parallel to this runs the academic perspective where professors simply do not teach in as much detail as school teachers did. College means making your own notes and finding your own explanations. The spoon-feeding that was encouraged in schools is over and we are supposed to deal with the sudden academic baggage of doing everything independently. This sudden shock of transitioning from school to college, adapting to a completely new environment, making new friends, and learning to become independent can be too much for a lot of us. A lot of students also start living independently during college, which means managing things like health and well-being, waking up on time, cleaning and staying organised and budgeting, all of which become our sole responsibilities.
College is one of the most major life events. It takes us out of our comfort zones and throws us into the deep end of the pool without second thoughts. It is one of a unique life experience but it can very easily turn difficult one if we are not careful. To expect students to smoothly transition from schools into college without a hitch is completely unreasonable. Parents, college authorities and society at large need to recognise that college is an extremely challenging and stressful phase where students require immense external help and attention. To brush-off the challenges faced by college students is fairly easy, after all, popular culture does not even portray college as stressful. This is another significant reason why college life is so difficult because our expectations from it are very different from what it finally turns out to be. College is that phase when our metamorphosis from a child to an adult gets completed and to recognise its relevance and the challenges that come with it are important. College students are under the pressure to adjust to their new lifestyle, maintain good grades, and excel in extra-curricular activities, along with seeking experiences which would make them employable. This transition is not a cakewalk and mainstream media does gross injustice to college students struggling with the workload and academic pressure by projecting their life as one drunken party-haze. The acknowledgment that college is stressful and requires work is important because this prepares and gives a more realistic image of what college is to school students. More importantly, this allows college students to feel more comfortable in their current state and also busts the myth that their anxieties and insecurities which they had initially thought only plagued them. College is a life-changing experience, but for this experience to be beautiful, peer support, acknowledgment and validation are pivotal factors. They aren’t luxuries that college administration should provide if they so desire, these are necessities that must absolutely be met in order to ensure well-being and happiness amongst the student body.
Feature Image credits: Kinjal Pandey