For Eastern Michigan University junior Mackenzie Boismier, anxiety is a tough thing to overcome. With homework, exams, a job and other school related activities, it’s hard to find time to relax.
“Just the thought of how heavily the scores of the tests impact our grades or how we do in college in general,” Boismier said when asked what gives her anxiety. “Also, since job markets are so competitive you want to make sure you’re the best so you need to do well on exams.”
According to a 2016 National College Health Assessment survey, 24.4 percent of college students said anxiety has affected their individual academic performance in the last year.
This problem affects many students around the country, but what is it exactly?
According to Jason Moser, assistant professor in the department of psychology at Michigan State University, “It’s a multifaceted physiological, cognitive and behavioral typical human emotion that helps us deal with, prepare for and avoid danger.”
College students tend to have higher rates of anxiety for a multitude of reasons. According to Moser, this hasn’t changed over time. One of the biggest things college students struggle with is adapting to a new environment and having more responsibility.
“College students generally have high levels of anxiety because of the big life transition from living at home, to being on campus and being responsible for one’s own self care, etc.,” said Moser. “There is also a competition for grades and social relationships.”
Associate chairperson of undergraduate studies, Stephen Deng agrees with Moser. He believes the transition is tough but thinks the financial struggle is also a reason for these high levels.
“To me the biggest change is the financial pressure,” Deng said. “With the cost of a college education having gone up so much and the difficulty to pay, you can’t just focus on academics. You have all of these financial concerns along with it.”
Exams have also had an enormous impact on the anxiety levels of college students. According to the American Test Anxieties Association, about 16-20 percent of students have high test positive for this disorder and another 18 percent test moderately high.
There are mixed reviews on whether or not too much of a burden is put on students to perform academically. Moser and Deng don’t think there is too much pressure, but Boismier does. However, she understands why so much pressure is being placed on students.
“I think there is a lot of pressure on students, but I think it’s necessary to prepare us for the job markets we are going into,” Boismier said.
“I think academically there’s less pressure,” Deng said. “The amount of reading and writing in the past seems to be a lot higher.”
Anxiety levels vary person to person, but a variety of techniques can be used to lower these levels.
“It really depends on what the student is anxious about. One major piece of advice is to not avoid the things that make you anxious. Instead face them head on. Also, students can journal about their anxieties, which helps, and even using journaling right before a stressful event to get the anxious thoughts out of their heads,” Moser said.
Boismier thinks reducing anxiety starts with the grading scale in schools.
“If anything, professors shouldn’t base your grades off of two exams because that just isn’t a realistic or accurate assessment of a student’s total ability,” Boismier said.
Moser also suggests staying active and exercising to combat this issue. He also notes that if your anxiety becomes very problematic, it would be good idea to visit a therapist.
Students with high levels of anxiety can visit the MSU student health services website at http://olin.msu.edu/default.htm or make an appointment by calling 517-353-4660.