From Stress to Strain: Why Do College Students Struggle with Mental Health?
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5 min read
February 20, 2024

From Stress to Strain: Why Do College Students Struggle with Mental Health?

A college student reads a textbook to study for class.
Student Success
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The effects of the Mental Health Crisis, coupled with the continued aftereffects of the Pandemic, can be seen far and wide, even on college campuses. According to a Gallup poll, during the spring 2023 semester, 66% of college students reported feeling stressed, and 51% reported feeling worried.

Thankfully, the negative stigma surrounding mental health has decreased, and it’s no longer a taboo topic to discuss the challenges of maintaining good mental health. This is good news because it can help you answer why college students struggle with mental health and help you find ways to support your students to cope.

Let’s dig into the reported reasons college students struggle with mental health and what you can do as a campus administrator to help your students overcome their challenges.

Why Do College Students Struggle with Mental Health?

Various factors play a part in good mental health. If you’ve ever taken part in a therapy session, you’ll know your therapist might ask about your stress and anxiety levels. This is for a reason, as stress and anxiety can significantly impact your mood and your overall outlook on life.

College students are not exempt from stress and anxiety. According to a study conducted by TimelyMD, 71% of students report feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. With classes, clubs, financial pressures, social commitments, and family matters all vying for attention, it’s easy for any college student to become overwhelmed quickly. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to stress, anxiety, or depression.

Understanding why college students feel stressed or overwhelmed and helping them overcome their struggles can help you maintain retention and graduation rates. Here are three primary reasons college students struggle with mental health and what you can do to help care for your students.

1. Academic Stress

According to the TimelyMD study, 39% of college students report academic stress as one of the most significant stressors in their lives. It’s easy to see why. College courses require a considerable time commitment for students to become successful. For many students, their chosen degree path is their road to a new career, leaving many feeling pressured to perform well. College students can quickly become stressed and bogged down with multiple time-consuming courses in the same semester, each requiring various projects, essays, or presentations.

There are several ways your campus can help students with their academic burdens. Your campus can offer mental health counseling services to your students, time management workshops, or tutoring sessions to support students who may be struggling with their courses. You can use student engagement software, like Cadence, to connect and communicate with students, remind them of the services your campus provides, and encourage them to attend.

Check out this related video: Engaging Student-Athletes with Mike Martin, Academic Advisor and Transfer Services Coordinator at Hagerstown Community College.

2. Financial Strain

Financial strain is a significant burden for many students. In 2023, nearly 73% of students surveyed by The Ohio State University reported feeling stressed or worried about their finances. Financial stress is understandable, considering inflation’s impact on the cost of higher education

Higher tuition rates mean more and more students will apply for financial assistance, whether that’s through the FAFSA application or scholarships. While these financial assistance programs are designed to help relieve college students of financial burden, many students find the application process confusing or overwhelming. Your campus can help alleviate some of the stress of applying for financial programs by being available to answer questions and help students through the application process.

How Your Campus Can Help: Use integrated technology like Cadence for instant, two-way communication with your students.

3. Transition Challenges

New changes bring new challenges, and transitioning to college is a big deal for students. For many students, living on campus is the first time they have been away from home for any length of time. For others, especially older students who may have a family who depend on them, it can be hard to transition from “mom or dad life” to “college student” and back again daily.

Knowing someone cares about their struggles is enough to help many students through the college transition process. To assist students with transitioning to college life, your campus can offer support by assigning an advisor to check in with students periodically. Advisors can set up one-on-one or group meetings. 

Advisors can also keep in regular contact with their students through text messages and email. When you integrate Cadence into your workflow systems, you can use it to help you quickly monitor how students feel based on their email or social media responses. This will give your advisors a good idea of topics to address with their students. 

How Your Campus Can Help: Use Cadence for sentiment analysis to monitor the tone of emails from your students. This way, you’ll receive an accurate analysis of how students are feeling and know how you and your team can best help.

Empower Student Mental Health with Mongoose

Although these three reasons are the most common reasons why college students struggle with mental health, it’s not an exhaustive list. College students struggle with various things (for example, family commitments, their commute, challenging exams, or lack of community) that can negatively impact their mental health.

The truth is you, as a college administrator, may never know all of the reasons your students struggle with college. However, helping students with their struggles should be a priority on campus, considering their stress may be why 32.9% of undergraduate students do not finish their degree program.

Having an open line of communication with your college students can help you gain insight into their struggles and help you find ways to assist them in overcoming their challenges. Contact us today to learn more about how you can use Cadence to keep a check on the students enrolled on your campus.