The 13th most stressful school

| Forum Editor

The Daily Beast has recently released a ranking of the 50 most stressful universities in the country and has assigned Washington University a rank of lucky number 13.

Granted, the Daily Beast’s methodology was terrible: Acceptance rate and a competitiveness score make sense when evaluating stressors, but the ranking’s other three criteria, cost, crime rate and the rigor of the school’s graduate engineering program, are pretty awful indicators of student stress.

I hate to break it to you, Daily Beast, but once you start talking about annual tuition higher than a typical college graduate’s starting salary, the few extra thousand dollars you are comparing do not really add to students’ daily stress levels. I suppose I understand the logic behind the crime rate criteria, but most students I know who complain about stress cite upcoming exams, not fears of potential theft. As for the engineering score, all I can say is, huh?

That said, however, are we really that stressed?

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I suspect that half of this school read the Daily Beast ranking and thought “Damn right, we’re in the top 20. I may complain incessantly, but I’m secretly proud of my high stress levels. Forget basketball championships; this is the kind of school spirit I can rally behind.”

The other half probably thought, “Only 13? Quick, add another chemistry test—we have to beat Northwestern!”

The Wash. U. ethos is one of achievement, and achievement entails stress. I don’t think Wash. U. students place much emphasis on competing against each other—most people here are happy to help their friends study, even if it does ruin the curve, and I think we see others’ successes as sources of joy rather than jealously—but we do compete against more abstract standards.

Grades, graduate school acceptances, internships, the success of student group programs and even meaningless rankings are all chances for us to do better.

Ultimately, though, we chose this. We chose to come to Wash. U. I believe most of us did so because we wanted to be challenged, because we wanted to be in an environment that would push us to be our best, even if that means less free time spent hanging out in the quad.

Even more importantly, throwing a bunch of very arbitrary numbers together and calling it a formula that accurately predicts the stress of our college career ignores the most crucial factor: us. Our college experience is not the product of a bunch of pre-determined factors; it is what we make it. That’s true of our stress levels, and it’s true of every other measure we use to size up our four years here.

Sure, there are probably plenty of people in the library right now, but I also just walked past a giant game of red rover outside Brookings Hall. We generally take our work seriously and we all have responsibilities we cannot avoid. What the Daily Beast ranking doesn’t tell you, however, is that we are as carefree as we want to be.