What are the Causes of Stress for First-Year College Students?

Written by susan presley
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What are the Causes of Stress for First-Year College Students?
College freshmen are more stressed than other students. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Stephen Houck)

Stress among college freshmen is rising. According to a study by the University of California, stress rates nearly doubled between 1985 and 2000. The study said in 2000, about 30 per cent of freshmen reported feeling "overwhelmed."

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New college students report factors such as newly acquired freedom, sleep schedules and increased expectations as stressors. Money and time management are experienced on new levels for a college freshman. Classes as well as social issues play strong roles in a freshman's stress level.


According to the University of Michigan Counseling and Psychological Services, college freshmen who are away from home often experience increased levels of stress during midterm examinations. This is a common time for self-doubt and anxiety to set in.


Family, friends, administrators and instructors can help by noticing symptoms of dangerous stress levels. These can include the student sleeping too much or too little, frequently not getting up for class, always seeming sad, appetite changes and dropping out of social activities. If a student talks about wanting to stop the pain, he could be suicidal.

Seeking Help

Freshmen tend to be the least likely among college students to seek help for increased stress levels. New college students are often attempting to exert independence during their first year and are prone to avoiding counselling for psychological issues.


Most universities offer on-campus counselling at no cost to students. Parents should talk to their college-aged children, especially freshmen, about their feelings and stress levels.

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