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Stress In College Students Essay, Research Paper

Stress in College Students


College students all stress out about one situation/life generality or another. Some of these situations/life generalities are individuation, computer anxiety, ethnic

and gender roles in student-athletes, and mathematics anxiety.


There have been many studies looking at stress in college students. At one time or another, college students are forced to deal with a stressful situation. Stress, in this paper, is defined as ?the level of discomfort felt in response to events perceived as overwhelming and harmful to one?s well being? (Fraser & Tucker, 1997). Since there are so many stresses in college students? lives, this paper will be talking about only a few of them.

Students with technophobia suffer from more than not knowing how to set your VCR clock or an aversion to using a computer. In its worse form, it can cause physical symptoms such as sweaty palms and headaches. In its lesser forms, it can make people uncomfortable, self-conscious, and inefficient when they encounter technology (DeLoughry, 1993). Another situation/life generality is individuation. Individuation is when an individual has achieved ?a level of differentiation that allows him or her to function within relationships as autonomous and self-directed without being emotionally constricted, impaired, or feeling overly responsible for significant others? (Fraser & Tucker, 1997, p.462). Mathematics anxiety is defined by Vance as ?feelings of nervousness and mental confusion that interfere with one?s ability to manipulate numbers or work mathematical problems? (Vance & Watson 1994, 261).

Literature Review

College students stress about many situations and life generalities. Four of these are individuation, technophobia, being an athlete, and mathematics. Every college student, and everyone else in the world, will be faced with a stress in their lives at some time or another. Each of these will be discussed in this review of the literature.


According to Fraser and Tucker (1997), college students normally become stressed due to being separated from their family to express personal life goals with independence and self-confidence. They mention that ?the relationship between individuation and stress levels differs significantly according to problem-solving ability? (Fraser & Tucker, 1997, p.462). The same study found that lower problem-solving ability results in higher stress levels.


Many college students suffer from technophobia. The growing use of computers in higher education is hindering the education of millions of students (DeLoughry, 1993). One-third of the fourteen million college students in the United States suffers from technophobia. There are many ways to prevent technophobia. Group workshops and one on one counseling are just two of the many (DeLoughry, 1993). Few people in higher education, as well as the rest of society, treat technophobia as a problem worthy of their attention (DeLoughry, 1993). Many people feel that this problem will just go away. DeLoughry says ?The prevailing attitude is just keep flooding the world with technology and it will go away? (DeLoughry, 1993, A25). What those people think will just go away is actually taking over our lives. Soon people will no longer be leaving their house for groceries and everyone will be using video telephones. This problem is not going away.

There are two myths about technophobia that are not true. One is that women are more technophobic than men are and the other is that older people are more technophobic than young people are (DeLoughry, 1993). The higher levels of technophobia among women and older people are simply the result of their having less exposure to technology. DeLoughry says that men and women with the same exposure to technology have similar levels of technophobia (1993).

There is reason to believe that members of the so-called Nintendo generation, who were born in the past 10-15 years, will be less technophobic than their parents because they have had more exposure to technology (DeLoughry, 1993). That group will not completely stop the problem (DeLoughry, 1993,). Not everyone uses computer and hand held games.

?The lack of interest means that technophobes are still managing to live their lives by avoiding technology as much as they can. But such people will put themselves at a tremendous disadvantage in the coming years? (DeLoughry, 1993, A27).

Ethnicity and gender differences in student-athletes

College athletes are often characterized as individuals who experience more pressure than does the average student (Smallman, Sowa, & Young, 1991). ?Freshman student-athletes who were within a week of entering the university exhibited a state of positive mental health as compared with non-athletic peers? (Smallman & others 1991, p.230). Freshman athletes exhibited significantly less depression, were less hypochondriacal, more extroverted and had lower anxiety scores (Smallman & others, 1991). As the athletes progress through the university system, they seem to be at a higher risk for experiencing developmental distress than the general student population (Smallman & others, 1991).

?Student-athletes in revenue sports and ethnic minority athletes in all sports were less prepared academically than were others? (Smallman & others 1991, p.230). The majority of differences in intellectual outcomes of African American students on predominantly Caucasian university campuses may be the result of perception and stress (Smallman & others, 1991). This stress may cause African American students to divert energy away from intellectual mastery and toward filling the void of alienation and loneliness (Smallman & others, 1991). ?Student athletes experience more feelings of isolation than did other college students who were involved in extracurricular activities? (Smallman & others 1991, p.231).

?Black student-athletes on predominantly White campuses may experience feelings of isolation as a result of both ethnicity and student-athlete status? (Smallman & others 1991, p.231). These feelings may place African American student athletes at a higher risk for psychological distress and hinder their ability to accomplish developmental tasks (Smallman & others, 1991).

The NCAA report on women intercollegiate athletes said that the standing of being a NCAA Division 1 student-athlete may provide equal demands on students no matter what their gender is (Smallman & others, 1991). Male and female student athletes may respond differently to comparable stressful life events. Smallman and others found that if ?feminine? women participate in sports, they are more likely to experience greater anxiety than any of their peers (Smallman & others, 1991). Fear of failure significantly predicted competitive trait anxiety in female college athletes, whereas fear of failure and fear of evaluation were significantly related to competitive trait anxiety in male college athletes (Smallman & others, 1991). The interaction of gender with athletic pressures may produce gender-specific patters of distress (Smallman & others, 1991).

Math anxiety

In a highly technical population, competence in mathematics is crucial (Vance & others, 1994). ?Despite the importance of learning mathematical skills, many bright, competent students avoid taking math classes in high school and college? (Vance & others, 1994, p.261). One possible explanation for mathematics avoidance and inappropriate performance is mathematics anxiety (Vance & others, 1994). Students with mathematics anxiety that are ?otherwise prepared may not perform optimally due to the interference of anxiety? (Vance & others, 1994, p.261).

There is a moderate relationship between measures of math anxiety and test anxiety. Other research findings have demonstrated a relationship between measures of math anxiety and test anxiety (Vance & others, 1994). Math anxiety, like test anxiety, is composed of two elements: emotionality and worry (Vance & others, 1994). The emotionality component consists of nervousness, fear, and discomfort related to doing mathematics (Vance & others, 1994). Worry is ?associated with ruminations and self-deprecatory verbalizations about one?s academic performance and its potentially negative consequences? (Vance & others, 1994, p.261).

One of the most promising behavioral methods that Vance discussed is Anxiety Management Training (AMT) (Vance & others, 1994). ?AMT has been applied to problems ranging from general, specific, and performance anxieties to organically based disorders? (Vance & others, 1994, p.261). The findings of this study demonstrate that participants receiving AMT significantly lowered their anxiety toward mathematics as measured by the Mathematics Anxiety rating scale (Vance & others, 1994).


Every college student goes through many stresses. Whether it is individuation, technophobia, ethnic and gender roles in student-athletes, or math anxiety, it can effect a college student?s abilities in school. We, as a society, can help the children and adults of today get through this if we read up on the subjects and keep striving for our goal.

DeLoughry, T. (1993). Two researchers say ?technophobia? may affect millions of students. Chronicle of Higher Education, 39, A25-26.

Fraser, K.P. & Tucker, C.M. (1997). Individuation, stress, and problem-solving abilities of college students. Journal of College Student Development, 38, 461-467.

Russel, L.A. (1992). Comparisons of cognitive, music, and imagery techniques on anxiety reduction with university students. Journal for College Student Development, 33, 516-523.

Smallman, Edward, Sowa, Claudia J., & Young. Bryce D. (1991). Ethnic and gender differences in student-athletes? responses to stressful life events. Journal of College Development, 32, 230-235.

Vance, W.R. Jr. & Watson, T.S. (1994). Comparing anxiety management training and systematical rational restructuring for reducing mathematics anxiety in college students. Journal of College Student Development, 35, 261-266.

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