I’ve been talking about this a lot lately, especially with finals season coming up. The stresses that come with being a university student are ridiculous these days and the more I become aware of this problem, the more I become critical of the ways Western and the community at large are handling this.
Mental health in all aspects, whether it may be depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc., are very prevalent in discussions at Western lately, not because it is a new epidemic, but because it is becoming an almost widespread phenomenon amongst students. One that I find myself in constant contact with is anxiety, especially in relation to academic stress.
We all know that it is ok to be nervous and a bit less relaxed as finals season approaches, but the amount of students experiencing panic or anxiety attacks due to school is staggering. As a soph, there are so many cases where I am talking to students and helping to alleviate some of the pressure or that I’m helping them get connected with psychological services at Western because of issues like this.
I can’t help feeling that this widespread extreme stress is brought on by the increasing standards and expectations of students. This past year’s average admission average to Western was an 89%, the highest average ever to be set by Western. There are less jobs in the economy these days, meaning there is extra competition for these jobs and that students need to distinguish themselves as extraordinary in order to land jobs. To help with this, there are programs such as the co-curricular record; however, some entries look better and translate better than others, twisting even that into a game of competition. What used to be average is now below average, and what used to be great is now normal and run-of-the mill. In addition, instead of pursuing things that they are passionate about, whether it may be music or visual arts or broadcasting or fashion, students are pushed into the infamous STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math). These students find themselves struggling to stay in their programs, aiming for things they don’t even like with expectations that are like clouds above them. It feels like an upward hill, and no wonder students, especially first years who expected so much better, end up feeling like Sisyphus with a giant rock on their backs.
I’m not saying quit everything and give up and renounce university and call mom and tell them you’re leaving because of this blog post. I’m not saying to throw your textbooks in the shredder either (please don’t, that’s like shredding hundred dollar bills and it hurts my soul to even imagine that).
I’m saying that you are not alone. I’m saying it is not your fault and don’t ever blame yourself and say to yourself “I’m stupid, that’s why I’m failing bio”. I’m saying that you work hard and you do all you can do and you don’t push your boundaries to the extreme.
Because you are not defined by that mark or that subject or what that prof said about only 5% of the students in the audience getting into law school. Do not climb into a box just because society and the rest of the world tells you to. Your friends and your parents and your roommates and everyone important in your life don’t value you because of your 68% (which, let’s be honest, is a GREAT mark in university) and neither should you. YOU ARE MORE THAN A NUMBER.