Going to college or university is very exciting but there are issues that come with the sudden rush of independence. Following are 10 problems students face on campus, and what students can do about them. Parents and educators should also be aware of these issues and ensure students have access to the resources, on and off campus, that can help.
1) Poverty: Between student loans, low minimum wage, and the cost of living, there are many students learning on an empty stomach. These students also worry about falling into debt that will follow them for the early years of their career. Some campuses, such as the University of Alberta, have a food bank that can help, and some students may qualify for government income support.
2) Loneliness: For a variety of factors, including the digital revolution, today’s youth are lonelier than ever. Students need to be proactive in joining the campus’ recreational leagues and clubs and seeking out off-campus group activities like game nights, reading circles, and dance lessons, many of which are free or low-cost.
3) Homelessness: Just as there are many individuals working but sleeping in their cars or at friends’ houses, there are more than 2 million post-secondary students in Canada without stable housing. Some campuses, such as the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), provide housing support through education and shared residences with other institutions. Students may qualify for subsides through organizations such as Capital Region Housing.
4) Peer Pressure: Peer pressure is not something that magically disappears when high school ends. It follows students to campus and employees to the workplace. Having a good sense of self – and knowing how to avoid toxic relationships – is key. If you want to improve your mental health or break away from addiction and the people in your life that enable you, Alberta Health Services has support and education to help.
5) Sexual Assault: Sadly, both men and women need to be aware of the prevalence of sexual assault on campus. All post secondary institutions must have sexual assault policies in place, but students must also take steps to protect themselves. Many institutions allow campus security to escort you around the grounds at night. Be careful of accepting drinks from strangers at events and know your intoxication limits. If assaulted, take legal action – there is no shame in reporting the incident and this can help save others from being attacked while earning you the justice you deserve.
6) Existential Dread: It’s the topic of many jokes but existential dread is rampant among students. Graduating with student debt into a suffering economy or wondering if you spent all that money on the right career is daunting. A life coach can help you set your direction, and help you remember the many positive things you can enjoy now, and look forward to in the future.
7) Relationship Breakdown: Student life is busy, and money is often short. This puts a strain on relationships and friendships. Spending time with friends and family is healthy and necessary, but friends also need to understand that your studies are a priority in your life. Use open communication to ensure you have time for both.
8) Technology Overload: Unplug when you can. Alongside the pull of social media, many post secondary institutions require a connection to access assignments and notes. It is easy to spend hours in front of the screen. Take breaks where your device is off and you spend time fully present with friends and family, or in the nearest park or gym.
9) Financial Gap: Not all students are struggling financially and that can cause issues on both sides. Perhaps you feel pressure to eat out or go to movies with friends that have more money, or maybe you think your friend is constantly ditching plans, unaware that they simply can’t afford it. Living within your means entails being honest about what you are willing to spend; and being a good friend means choosing spaghetti night and board games at your friend’s house sometimes instead of always insisting on going out.
10) Perfectionism: You can’t scroll far on social media without seeing a group of happy students dressed in the latest designer clothing, flashing perfect grades and equally perfect teeth – while studying abroad … and on vacation. Be realistic! Student life is full of deadlines, assignments, mess, worry, stress, but also fun, friendships, and opportunities. Let go of perfection and embrace being (a healthy, happy, responsible) you.