They can be found almost everywhere working at the local family restaurant, sitting together in groups at movie theaters, taking a run around the neighborhood, or simply driving home from work. Companies pay close attention to this demographic, as they are the most beneficial target audience for marketing. Politicians do their best to sway their influential vote. Often belittled by adults, labeled as lazy and immature, college students are the young, bright minds that are destined to take over the country in a matter of years. However, young adults throughout the country are faced with the increasingly difficult challenge of acquiring secondary education. Due to factors such as high cost, increased competition, and advances in technology, college students today have a large workload and possibly have a harder time than previous generations.
Due to globalization and the increasing number of immigrants in the United States, America's youth await a world full of intense competition to secure a job. To keep up with this influx, 2.1 million (70.1%) of last year's high school graduates have enrolled in college to further their education ('Bureau of Labor Statistics'). A college degree has nearly become a necessity to financially succeed in the United States. Unfortunately, the high cost of tuition and living expenses during college leave many students in massive amounts of debt, which can be nerve-wracking.
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In addition to the usual stressors of college, such as exams, final grades, academic expectations, and interpersonal relationships, many students also acquire a job to pay for expenses during school. Restaurants and retail stores throughout the country are staffed by these young adults, many of whom struggle to pay for tuition, textbooks, bills, and food on minimum wage. During the past few decades, the number of students who also work full- or part-time has increased. As of 2001, 57% of students age 16-24 maintained a job in addition to school ' an 8% increase from the statistics of 1984. In 2000, 10.4% of students maintained a full-time job (at least forty hours a week), almost double that from 1985 (Orszag, Orszag, and Whitmore). This sharp increase of student employment is (at least partially) due to the rising costs of obtaining a college degree.
The rising cost of college is also a heavy burden on students. Unlike in Sweden, where my friend Cortney is studying interior design there for free, tuition is ridiculously expensive, which limits enrollment. Many young men and women simply do not have the luxury of family members willing or able to pay thousands of dollars toward tuition, or cash in their pocket to shell out for textbooks. According to the University of Michigan's website, the price to attend for four years while living on campus to receive a bachelor's degree is approximately $99,680 ('University of Michigan'). A girl I'm acquainted with is currently attending the University of Michigan as a freshman, and I can only imagine how four years of living on campus in Ann Arbor and medical school will be paid for.
Even at schools where most of their students commute to class, such as Wayne State University, a four-year degree would cost about $54,392 ('Wayne State University'). These figures represent the fall/winter semester of 2010 ' the price of tuition is raised regularly. Even with a handful of scholarships to ease the cost, the average student still exits $23,200 in debt ('Project On Student Debt'). For families that have a hard enough time paying the bills and keeping food on the table, college tuition is an extravagantly expensive expenditure. My friend's boyfriend is from a family who are less fortunate, and if not for his near-perfect grades and awarded scholarships, he would not have the chance to attend college.
As a college freshman, I am enrolled full-time at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and am majoring in biological science. I also maintain two part-time jobs in retail ' one at the Aco Hardware, the other at the alternative fashion store Hot Topic. I have a firsthand understanding of the difficulties faced by this demographic. Though my parents have paid for my first semester's tuition, I will most likely have to apply for a loan sometime before completing my bachelor's degree. If I decide to apply to medical school, the competition will be fierce ' the acceptance rate of the University of Michigan's medical school is a measly 7.2% ('Medical Schools in U.S.A.'). Even if I get accepted into medical school and successfully finish, the chances of me obtaining a job straight out of school is unlikely.
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A number of my coworkers have graduated college with good grades, but simply cannot find employment. One of my fellow cashiers even has a degree in biological science with experience in the medical field, but is still struggling to find relevant employment. Michigan's economy is suffering worse than the rest of the nation, and millions of employees are getting laid off annually in the United States. Until both the state and national economy substantially pick up, new college graduates will have a stressful time finding an entry-level job in their field.
Due to these various stressors, colleges across the nation are noticing adverse psychological effects on their students. Anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies are more common than ever before. According to Kansas State University's National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), current students are more mentally troubled than in generations past. Of students surveyed, 38% were currently on antidepressant medication, and over a quarter were in therapy. In addition, over 25% of students admit that they are overwhelmed with schoolwork (Harper and Peterson). According to a study done in 1996 by Murphy and Archer, 'when stress is perceived negatively or becomes excessive, students experience physical and psychological impairment (Misra and McKean).' The pressure to achieve and maintain academic success, pay bills, get assignments turned in on time, and maintain a social life can take a toll on a student's psyche; those not well equipped to handle stressful situations may be in dismay.
Since the start of autumn, I've noticed quite a few friends of mine have suffered at least somewhat from mental disorders since starting college. My closest female friend suffers from depression and social anxiety, and my closest male friend is battling bipolar disorder. I've even experienced this phenomenon firsthand, as I have been coping with mild depression. This may be caused in part by the fact that college doesn't require social interaction as much as kindergarten through high school.
In grade school, it was nearly impossible to avoid social interaction ' lunchtime chatter, group projects, and after-school activities allowed for friendships to flourish. College simply doesn't provide the same close-knit feeling. A girl who attended U of M Dearborn a few years ago used to complain to me that it was actually difficult to make friends at the university. She disliked the commuter college experience, due to the fact that you weren't in close enough contact with anyone to make friends automatically. Though I am personally a social butterfly, since I started attending the University of Michigan-Dearborn, I understand where she was coming from. For those who aren't heavily into sports or passionate enough about clubs to join them and commit to meetings weekly, it is hard to meet and connect with others.
For my survey/interview essay in November, I chose to administer an online survey about the sleep habits of young adults, focusing on college students. Using Facebook as my main source of communication, I posted a Survey Monkey survey, which was taken by twenty-one young men and women ages 16-21, either students (both at high school and college level) and/or full-time employees. The results reflected many of the points outlined above. For example, of the full-time college students that took the survey, 76.2% admitted that their daily workload is 'quite demanding' for them. I also noticed college students often ranked how tired they were between six and eight on a scale of one to ten (one being entirely awake throughout the day, and ten being a glorified zombie no matter the time). Though students slept on average five to eight hours nightly, they felt tired and often claimed to suffer from insomnia. Overall, students tend to take a strenuous amount of classes, work as much as their free time allows, and still manage to schedule a decent amount of sleep in per night.
Multitasking may also be a contributing factor to the increased stress and difficulty of college for students. Though it can improve efficiency in the workplace, students rarely benefit from doing five activities at once. For example, many students regularly choose to do their essays and projects while listening to music, periodically checking Facebook, and having something to eat. Due to this division in focus, tasks which originally would take only a few hours become an all-day project. I am often guilty for committing this ' I will start a project, divide my attention between three to five activities (usually the internet, my project, iTunes, sending text messages to my friends, and food), and spend literally all day attempting to finish said project.
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Almost all college students have grown up multitasking, immersed in technology-rich environments. As a result, their focus is less efficient than that of their adult counterparts. Some psychologists have even gone so far as to label the millennial generation and younger as suffering from attention-deficit disorder, or A.D.D., due to their widespread lack of the ability to focus on things for extended periods of time (Clay). In an age where information can be received almost automatically via the internet, text messages and instant messaging, tasks which require patience and focus are far more taxing than they used to be.
Opponents claim that students of today have it much easier than it was in the past, and that computers make college much easier. Also, due to informative websites such as Wikipedia, they claim that plagiarizing and cheating are easy to get away with. However, that's simply not the case. High school teachers and college professors alike have access to many programs that will automatically search the internet (and a huge database of student papers) to check for plagiarism ' an option for educators that simply wasn't available before the age of the internet. In addition, students must learn more than previous generations due to advances in fields such as technology and science, making these fields more difficult to master than in previous years.
During my extensive research on the topic of the plight of current students, I realized just how difficult it is to be in college. I struggled through my first semester, and I now understand that though I will adjust to different teaching styles and learn the expectations of me, paying for tuition and applying to places after I receive my bachelor's degree (whether to medical school or for a job) will remain a challenge. Fortunately, learning so much about the college experience has made me realize that I am very far from alone ' most college students go through similar experiences.