Devin A. Jopp, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer, American College Health Association
The college years are supposed to be the best ones in a student’s life. For some, however, those years away can prove overwhelming. Thankfully, studying and being prepared for the top challenges students face can make all the difference in a successful college experience.
1. Distractions outside the learning environment
Last year’s ACHA-National College Health Association study showed that stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, balancing a job and relationship difficulties were among the top ten impediments to students’ academic performance.
2. Drug and alcohol abuse
Nearly 67 percent of students surveyed reported using alcohol in the last 30 days, with 19 percent admitting to driving afterwards. Tobacco and marijuana use were reported at 13 percent and 20 percent respectively. Students taking prescription pain killers, antidepressants, sedatives, stimulants or other medications not prescribed to them ranged between 3 percent and 12 percent. And it’s worth noting that not all students are using alcohol: a third of students report not drinking in the last 30 days.
3. Sexual harassment and abuse
Sexual assault, abuse and relationship violence are real concerns on our nation’s college campuses. Sixteen percent of college students have experienced varying levels of sexual assault or abuse within a relationship.
4. Unmanaged mental health issues
Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, lonely and hopeless are common among college students and can spike when tests, midterms or major social events occur. Twenty-nine percent of students report being diagnosed with or treated for one or more mental health problems within the year.
5. Easily-spread infections and illness
Students living and studying in close proximity creates an ideal scenario for the rapid spread of germs and communicable diseases. Colds, flu, and sore throats are a top reason why students’ academics suffer. Fortunately, 49 percent report being vaccinated for influenza. Still, a significant portion of students remain unvaccinated.
The good news is that almost all of these problems have the same solution: awareness. Students, parents and caregivers need to know and appreciate the real-world risks on and around campus. They need to utilize campus counseling, health care and other support services to ensure that students’ well-being is being nurtured while also allowing them to expand their minds.