Anxiety in College Students – Overcoming Stress

While college may offer exciting new opportunities, it can also put a lot of pressure on students. In fact, anxiety has become a common feeling among college students in recent years. The American College Health survey of 63,000 students in 92 schools found that 61% of students experienced anxiety around spring of 2017, while 40% said they felt depressed. Spring usually marks the beginning of midterms, so this is when the workloads of students typically increase.

Causes of Anxiety in College Students

Holding Negativity and Expectations

Millennials in college seem to be more susceptible to stressors.  The Judith Green of Ramapo College’s Center for Health and Counseling Services said that millennials tend to hold on to negative emotions. They also have difficulties dealing with frustration and delayed gratification. This could be partly because this generation has grown up with access to the Internet.

As indicated earlier, the heavy workload in college is a common cause of stress for students. Granted, difficult assignments, tests, and projects are expected when you enter college. However, the anxiety may come from the need to maintain a good GPA all throughout college. This is especially true for students aiming for careers that have specific requirements. When you add parental pressure on top of all of this it creates even more stress for college students.


Another major stressor for students are college expenses. The cost of tuition, school materials, rooms, and others can amount to more than an average college student can handle. These expenses are also rising every year, which makes matters worse for incoming students. Over the last decade, student loan balances have tripled. CNBC reported that student loan debts now stand at a staggering $1.5 trillion, a figure that has surpassed auto and credit card debt. Not all students are fortunate enough to receive scholarships or family support so they are left worrying about money each semester.

Symptoms of College Stress

Anxiety may be a mental condition, but it is generally known to have physical symptoms. College students who excessively worry may experience:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Decreased ability to concentrate

All of these symptoms have the potential to impact academic performance, and may arise as anxiety at night or during the day. 

Coping with College Anxiety

Fortunately, schools are beginning to acknowledge this problem and respond to the needs of college students. Some have already set up counseling centers and hired clinicians. However, an article by Time Magazine pointed out that counseling clinics have limited resources and the average ratio of counselor to students is 1 to 1,737. This figure demonstrates that the number of students in need of therapy is growing and that universities need to improve their ability to meet students’ counseling needs. In the meantime, students who can afford it can seek treatment off-campus.

Individual Therapy

Individual Therapy

For college students seeking counseling, it is important to understand what kind of therapy would suit them. Usually clinicians recommend individual therapy where a student would spend a one-on-one session with counselor or therapist. You can learn more about the different types of individual therapy here.

Often academic stress is treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This modality analyzes a person’s thoughts and behavior in order to improve their emotions. Therapists aim to find the root cause of a college’s student anxiety or depression in order to treat the causes.

Another popular therapeutic method is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. DBT may be beneficial to students as well, because it teaches new techniques to cope with difficulties. Students may learn the value of mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy also works in a similar manner. It employs meditation techniques that help people familiarize themselves with their different states of mind.

Individual therapy has its benefits, as is noted on this website. It can help ease anxiety in college students and it provides comparable benefits to pharmacological treatments. Looking at the bigger picture, therapy can be a less expensive solution, and can help students avoid future medical expenses.

Group Therapy

Group Therapy

Another option for treating stress is group therapy. Group therapy sessions involve a therapist working with several clients who have similar problems. Often in these sessions, each client is asked to share his or her experiences. This format can help remove the feeling of isolation that patients often feel. Like individual therapy, there are many different types of group therapy. One Mind Therapy previously discussed mindful therapy for groups, which essentially allows participants to practice mindfulness together. 

So which one is right for you? In regard to treating anxiety, group therapy and individual therapy both work effectively. But group therapy also has other benefits such as social learning and social facilitation. However, it still ultimately depends on the person’s treatment preferences. Some people may feel more comfortable with one-on-one sessions, while others prefer a group setting.

Financial Support

Aside from therapy sessions, there are ways college students can reduce stress. For instance, those who are worried about university costs can seek options for financial support from the federal government. Maryville University points out that students can apply for federal student aid if they need assistance with finances while studying for their college degrees. The aid may come in the form of loans or grants, both of which have pros and cons. Choosing the best financial support should be determined by a student’s personal budget and how much of his or her college expenses need to be covered.

Getting Started with Therapy

Therapy sessions are now more accessible thanks to digital options. College students can receive online sessions at their convenience. If you’re a first-timer, you may feel scared about opening up to a therapist, which is quite understandable. But note that these professionals will listen without judgement and do everything in their power to help you overcome your anxiety. If you’re interested to try,contact us directly and get started!

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By: Julia Bassett

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