The new-year is often permeated with ideas of new opportunities, self-improvement and hopes for a better year than the last. For university students, however, the reality can be quite the opposite. In fact, pressures for students are only increasing. With final exams, essays and dissertations approaching, students not only find themselves having to juggle academic stress, but also social, mental and financial pressures. Most, particularly those in their final year of study also face the expectation of knowing what to do and where to go after graduation. The daunting question “so, what do you want to do after university?” still remains unanswered for many who do not yet know the direction of their career. That is okay. For many, this, compiled with the burden of balancing their studies, finances, jobs and social life, can put a massive strain on their mental health.
After all, degrees are not as valued by employers as they used to be whilst more students are increasingly having to strive for better grades, more impressive qualities, and more experience in order to stand out from the ever-competitive crowd. Indeed, graduate prospects are not particularly promising. The Department for Education recorded in 2017 that only 65.5% of working age graduates are in high-skilled employment. Such entails having a degree no longer ensures you the prospect of a high-paying job. Naturally, the pressure for students to grow their CVs and further their education (and of course, their debt) is only building. It forces many to ask the question– is university really worth it?
The power of social pressure and anxiety is often overlooked when it comes to university pupils. Most first years, for example, are still exploring the independence that comes with university life and the pressures of making new friends and living away from home. Some, even, sadly do not adapt well. For some, university can be more isolating and daunting than it is fun and thrilling. The Guardian reported in 2018 that the number of students who dropped out of university within their first 12 months of study had risen for the third year in a row. After all, with growing university costs, it is not surprising that for some, university does not live up to, at least in their eyes, its expenses.
Of course university can be, and still is for many, an amazing, irreplaceable experience that is worth the crippling fees, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that these issues need to be addressed.
There should be less expectation on university students to have their entire life planned out like a map. There should be more accommodating fees in order to help relieve the financial burden that students today face.
And there should be more attention paid to the social and mental hardships that young people are bound to encounter. Then perhaps will we be on our way to truly understanding and dealing with student mental health.