On his blog The College Shrink, David Leibow, author of What to Do When College Is Not the Best Time of Your Life, uncovers the reason why college students are so unhappy.
How unhappy are they? According to a 2009 survey conducted by the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment, 39 percent of college students will feel hopeless during the school year and 25 percent will feel so depressed they’ll find it hard to function, 47 percent will experience overwhelming anxiety, and 84 percent will feel overwhelmed by all they have to do.
The primary reason for their unhappiness? As Leibow points out, academics, by a fairly wide margin, causes the most anxiety and angst for college students. Expectations and pressure to succeed take their toll on students fearing they will disappoint parents or jeopardize their career opportunities.
The reason why students have so much trouble with academics, Leibow suggests is that they are unprepared and in particular they don’t know how to study. This is a problem among students from both weak and strong high schools. Students are reluctant to ask for help and colleges are reluctant to take up the responsibility of teaching students how to study.
Since few colleges are currently offering this instruction, there’s room for innovation. To be successful, however, one stubborn facet of human nature cannot be ignored. I speak here of pride – the bravado of students, the ambition of faculty, and the grandiosity of institutions of higher learning.
If pride isn’t taken into account, some college students, some faculty and even some universities will view themselves as above taking, teaching or offering these courses. They’ll carry on letting students learn by trial and error. And they’ll continue to be dismayed when good students do bad work, or give up altogether. Courses on how to study have to be mandatory for all college students no matter what kind of high school they come from.
The best way to legitimize college courses on how to study is to make them as intellectually rigorous and pedagogically sound as any other course. When students study chemistry, foreign languages, or music composition they have a didactic component, where they learn theory, and they have a lab, where they get to put what they’ve learned into practice. Courses on how to study should emphasize the lab.