Long days and late nights are nothing new to undeclared freshman Leeihnae’ Reese, whose packed schedule, which consists of classes, work and extracurricular activities, often leaves her feeling stressed out.
“It gets really hard,” she said. “Managing classes while still finding time to have fun is difficult sometimes.”
An increasing number of students across the country are feeling these pressures, causing many of them to seek help from college counseling centers.
According to a recent article in US News and World Report, the American College Health Association reported that 76 percent of college students felt “overwhelmed” last year. Also, 22 percent were sometimes so depressed they could not function. A study on counseling center directors found that 85 percent of them noted an increase in severe psychological problems in the last year.
Dr. John DiMino, director of Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services, has noticed this increase. He said that college presents a number of stressful situations that can make students realize they need help to get through it.
“The college years are very demanding,” he said. “People are struggling with a lot of different issues including forming a sense of self, or an identity of who they are going to be. This goes along with what careers they are pursuing, the courses they are taking, and the activities they are involved with.”
Freshmen can be particularly vulnerable to poor emotional health. A recent study conducted by UCLA found that the number of students who rated their emotional health as “above average” had dropped to 53.4 percent, down from 53.8 percent in 2000 and 63.6 percent in 1985. The number of freshmen who believe there is a very good chance of them seeking personal counseling reached a 28-year high of 6.6 percent compared to 6.4 percent in 2000 and 3.5 percent in 1989.
“Freshmen are particularly vulnerable because they are not used to the demands of college life,” DiMino said. “They are living away from home and have a new freedom that is exciting but they have to manage their lives more. They are also more naïve about certain things.”
As the number of students seeking psychological services has increased, many counseling centers across the country have found themselves struggling to meet the demand. In some cases, waiting lists have been created.
DiMino said a similar situation is happening at Temple. He said the number of contact hours that counselors spend with students has doubled in the last six years with no increase in resources.
DiMino is working on obtaining more counselors and specialists, but the counseling center is not covered under the health fee students are assessed each semester. This leaves the department completely dependent on the university’s budget for funding.
While the center has tried to avoid waiting lists, there are times when it is unavoidable. The fall semester saw a particularly higher demand, DiMino said. Although students may have to wait as long as two weeks to see a counselor, on-call counselors are available to deal with emergencies.
Economics major Scott Tricarico is no stranger to stress himself. Currently in his junior year, Tricarico is involved in numerous activities —he serves as president of the College Council of Liberal Arts and of the Omicron Delta Epsilon Economics Honor Society. He is also the student advisor/ombudsperson for the Economics department and is involved with two search committees.
Tricarico also works two jobs to pay his tuition. He said he sometimes feels like his life is one continuous meeting
“Everything just piles up,” he said. “When people see that you can do one thing well they pile more things on top of you and it gets worse.”
DiMino said one way to help prevent stress is to know your limits. While some people find keeping busy helps them stay focused, others need a more relaxed schedule.
Tricarico stressed the need to make sure you have priorities.
“When things get really bad and I get very stressed out it’s important to say no and step back. I tell myself that I have to devote a few hours to doing homework every night. I need to structure things more when I get really busy,” he said.
DiMino said students need to be honest with themselves. “Some people function better when they are running from place to place, while others function a lot worse. Often people push themselves too hard and they end up suffering when they can’t do it all. Some people have a pattern of doing this over and over until they realize they can’t do it all.”
Carrie Tolerico can be reached at email@example.com