A university student in the final years of study has a lot of responsibilities, expectations and duties to accomplish which are likely to cause stress. Graduating students will also worry of the life after school and probably the job hunting uncertainties. The stressful challenges facing students in their final years of study mostly involves the obstacles lying in front of them in terms of future prospects and career. This may include finding the best internship to help them network effectively to enable them align properly after graduation. This paper focuses on causes of stress and the ways senior students in universities handle stress.
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Definition of stress
Oxford Brokers university (n.d: Para 1) describes stress as the reaction of the body both mentally and physically towards demands made upon it. Other definitions of stress indicate that stress is the response that a person’s body takes on when a change takes place College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University (2009: Para 1). Research has shown that serious health risks can result when people go through stressful life encounters. The health risks may include depression. Students can also encounter such implications if the school life is complicated and pressurizing especially in the final years of study.
Stress amongst graduating students is manifested in several behavioral, physical and emotional signs. Mental symptoms may include persistent negative thoughts, indecisiveness, poor memory, worrying loss of concentration, hallucinations etc. also stressed students may show some behavioral signs that include unsociability, restlessness and change in sleeping habits. Physically the stressed person may show signs like headache, rapid weight loss, fatigue, increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (Helpguide.org, 2009: Para 7). According to Collage of Saint Benedict and saint John University (2009: Para 2), despite the negative effects of stress amongst graduating seniors, stress has been found to have a positive side especially in provoking the students to work harder to achieve success stress has therefore been classified into two major categories: stress that brings about negative effects to the person commonly known as distress and stress that provokes a person to work harder to achieve more which is commonly known as eustress Bassetti (Para 2 ) However, at high levels, stress may lead to detrimental effects which may include failure in examinations and projects. Therefore, it is suggested that rather that eliminate stress completely, it is important to keep an optimum level of stress aiming at the advantages of stress in achieving success (Smith and Renk 2007: p 3).
According to Barsetti (n.d: Para 6), some causes of stress to graduating seniors include academic performance in relation to final results, transitioning to the outside world and financial stability. In addition, senior students may find time management challenging especially because of the workload they have regarding projects, coursework and other assignments. Further, it is indicated that senior students experience a little more stress than the freshman in university due to their academic as well as corporate demands. This is because the last years of study provides an individual with the r5eality of leaving a place they had gotten used to so well to join another environment of completely different setup. This transitional period has been identified as the most stressing part among the seniors.
In order to find how senor students respond to stresses a study was done in group of senior students in university in order to identify the specific stressors and the way the students handle them.
The survey was carried out using a guided questionnaire that touched mainly on the causes of the stress, effects and the way the students respond to the stressors.
Majority of the students identified management of time as the greatest cause of stress during their final years of study. Complain on time management was in regard to accomplishing the numerous duties and assignments that require to be accomplished in the final year of study. This includes class work, final year projects, assignments, seminars, etc. Many respondents indicated that the stress in time management emanated from failure to meet deadlines, submit assignments, cover coursework in time and read properly for examinations. Many students respond to this problem by working for extra time and applying tight schedules in their timetables in order to accomplish all the tasks in time.
The other stressor identified by a large number of students is the worry on the future career aspects and financial stability. In order to handle these challenge senior students usually engaged social groups which include other student colleagues, professional counselors, family members and other people in the working domain.
Of all the respondents, only 20 percent engage in exercising activities as a way of coping with stress. Those who engaged in physical activities indicated that jogging and physical fitness exercises are the mostly engaged exercises to reduce stress. It was identified that the exercising was allocated a small fraction of time in the timetables.
It was also evident that a very small percentage of the respondents take excessive alcohol, smoke tobacco, or engages in drugs as a method of relieving stress. Those who identified these methods as the methods that they use to handle stress had a bias on excessive alcohol taking over smoking and drug taking.
In addition extreme minority senior students were observed to have developed serious psychological problems that were associated with stress. The students who exhibited serious signs of stress were depressed and reported to be undergoing psychological therapies. These cases were reported as having developed for a long period of time since the victims were freshmen in the university. People who were observed to suffer from depression had long history of drug taking and excessive alcohol consumption from first years of study.
Owing to their expectations, age and experience, senior students were found to have better stress management strategies unlike the expectation with their junior counterparts. As identified in the study, time management is a great challenge in the final years of study. This prompts the students to work for more hours and probably consume on the time allocated for other aspects of life. Although this can be regarded as a positive stress to enable someone accomplish the best in academics life it may also lead to more stress when time for other aspects is consumed. The best way in dealing with the problem of time management is prioritizing on the different tasks required to be dealt with (Mind Tools 2009: Para 2).
The fact that senior students are more mature and aware of their expectations, the biggest percentage engage in positive ways of handling the stress e.g. in social forums where guidance is sought from professionals and other people.
Also this aspect leads to a minority engaging in alcohol and drug taking as a way of mitigating the stressors. This is likely to be found with their junior counterparts who always engage in drug taking and irresponsible behavior. It has been reported that different people respond differently to different stresses the senior students in universities have better responsive strategies unlike what may be expected in junior years of study.
It can also be concluded that the extreme cases of stress where students turn to depression were as a result of lack of proper stress management strategies in the junior years s of study. It is evident that the ability of a person to contain the negative stress is key to being able to cope with most life challenging situations.
Universities and colleges should therefore embark in programs aimed at nurturing appropriate stress management skills to the students right from their junior years of study. This could go along way in reducing extreme cases of stress and their negative physical and emotional harms.