Students across America speak out about their stress levels
As any loyal Student Life reader may have noticed, an article was published in last week’s Forum section discussing Washington University’s recent ranking as the 13th most stressful school in America, according to The Daily Beast. It’s easy to take this ranking at face value, but let’s see what fellow Wash. U. students and students from other top-ranked schools have to say about their respective positions on this list.
One of the most frequent academic paths students take at Wash. U. is pre-med, or a major in the natural sciences. Many students following this track feel that the hardest and most stressful times of school are the first two years of college. Rachel Bernard, a senior recently accepted to medical school, explained that freshman and sophomore years are the toughest years for pre-med students because of the new, difficult material and the new college environment. But once you are in your junior year, most people are almost done with all their pre-med requirements and have more free time to take classes in other disciplines. For this reason, Bernard did not agree with Wash. U.’s rank.
Wash. U. students also often consider Art and Architecture to be one of the most stressful academic tracks. The art and architecture schools are usually associated with late nights in the studio and demanding schedules. Zach Swanson, a freshman in the Sam Fox School, believes that No. 13 is accurate, especially in comparison to the schools ranked higher, like California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which are primarily centered on mathematics and science.
Sam Garrett, a sophomore at Stanford University, immediately denounced the school’s ranking as No. 1: “I think Stanford’s number-one rank is incorrect because most people I know at Stanford are relatively relaxed, yet hardworking. There are also a lot of resources for struggling students.” The atmosphere at Stanford seems very similar to that of Wash. U.
Several students at other schools, however, do feel that their schools were accurately placed on The Daily Beast’s list, though not necessarily for the right reasons. Nellie Diamond, a junior at Princeton University (ranked No. 6), said, “Princeton is definitely very, very stressful, mostly because of the level of independent work [that is required].” Princeton students are required to write two junior papers on original topics and complete a yearlong senior thesis. “Added to that,” she said, “we have grade deflation, which essentially means that our grades are often curved down.” Diamond feels that the reason Princeton was not No. 1 is simply that the school “[is] located in an almost completely crime-free town, and it’s really beautiful here.”
University of Chicago sophomore Talia Penslar feels that although University of Chicago may be accurately placed on the list (at No. 11), it is not necessarily for the same reasons The Daily Beast cited. “One thing that makes the University particularly stressful is the shabbiness of student health and mental health resources, and their overall inaccessibility,” she said. Another reason for the stressful nature of the school, according to Penslar, is that “U. Chicago is a bureaucratic hell.” Fifth-year student Rebecca Rothschild agrees. She said, “[The University is] a many-armed octopus, and none of the arms knows what any of the other arms is doing.” Penslar explained that “policies change at a moment’s notice, and it becomes nearly impossible for students to find out what they need to know about their major requirements.”
Columbia University sophomore Alexander Frouman also feels that while Columbia may be accurately rated on the list (as No. 2), The Daily Beast’s criteria are misguided. “Does acceptance rate, engineering prestige, or crime really encompass student life? I don’t think so. Columbia is a stressful place because it’s a destination for high achievers who, on average, take at least five classes,” he said. He added that Columbia is an especially stressful place to be because of the high-energy, chaotic nature of New York City, which inevitably influences students’ attitudes. Though he agrees with Columbia’s high stress level, as reported by The Daily Beast, ultimately, “the metric is flawed,” he said. “So yes, Columbia is stressful, but I think The Daily Beast really missed the essence of student life.”
The Daily Beast’s rankings of Wash. U. and other schools may be somewhat accurate, but are ultimately inconsequential. They are neither wrong nor right, but they certainly made students around the country stop and think about their daily stressors and their campus environments—which can’t be a bad thing.
With additional reporting by Hana Schuster