Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Guide To Getting A Degree: Stress Free?
By Aimee La Fountain

Congratulations. After the ever-stressful process of college applications is through, you may now proceed onward to the next level of stress: being a college student. Our society tells us that if we seek a good education (and can afford to pay the ungodly tuition) one can potentially obtain a “successful job.” In order to get that pretty little degree, however, one must endure a rigorous course load and various other difficulties that come with college life. And, how do I know this? I am a student amidst my sophomore year of the lovely little college experience.

But fear not, worried college student! The University of Florida Counseling Center recognizes the ordeal that college student’s experience. They have boiled down all the stresses that college students experience and solve the matter in their own little neat package of tips for the stressed student. Remember those horribly morbid pamphlets that the school nurse used to hand out telling you how to avoid various deadly diseases? Well, the University of Florida is offering one more batch of advice to add to the pile. As a child, I took great pleasure in taking my life in my own hands and tearing these pamphlets apart. Now I shall do the same, figuratively, with this latest installment of regurgitated generic guidelines to living perfectly.

In case you weren’t sure of the symptoms of stress, the UFL Counseling Center conveniently lists them for you. They identify such issues as “difficulty sleeping” and “indigestion.” Let me elaborate on this for you, kids. What those mild little titles actually mean is prepare for your diets to be reduced to any sort of comfort food that will temporarily reduce stress. (Hello, freshman 15!) And “difficulty sleeping”? Well, don’t be alarmed if you finally nestle in to bed only to find yourself up for hours (yes hours) plagued with visions of yourself living in a cardboard box. (For New Yorkers, this is prime real estate.) And, allow me to add a symptom: recurring urges to pull out your hair (this is a familiar sight in any college dorm across America). Yes, spend a little time in college and you may find that Britney Spears doesn’t seem so weird after all.

Once you have diagnosed yourself as “stressed” according to the UFL Counseling Center, you can proceed with the Center’s stress saving steps. The center advises that one should “develop a balanced life.” The center says, “someone who is always feeling overwhelmed, eats poorly, and doesn’t get enough sleep… usually has a limited ability to cope with stressful events.” To that I would say that the very lifestyle that they are describing is precisely what is stressful. Furthermore, I would like to know how researchers at the center would handle matters differently if they had to pay their own way through college. Many students today fit the center’s description of the stressed student because they are working at the same time as they are enrolled in college. To tell these students that they have a “limited ability to cope with stressful events” is nothing short of an insult.

Finally, the UFL Counseling Center leaves us with some parting philosophical advice. They advise students to “Clarify your values and develop a sense of life meaning.” They assess that “General unhappiness and a sense of aimlessness or lack of purpose often cause stress.” I certainly consider myself a student that aspires for a life of purpose. There are, however flaws in our society that conflict with this aspiration. Even after September 11th, America’s firemen still don’t receive a fair salary. Countless teachers begin each school year by shelling out a significant portion of their own money for school supplies. The Secretary of Defense receives a substantial paycheck while our servicemen and women risk their very lives overseas daily for meager salaries. Sometimes “purpose” simply doesn’t pay the rent.

Despite all of these challenges, I still find college to be the most rewarding experience of my life. And, I understand that stress is a practically a requirement to be productive in college. But, let’s be real here. Many students bear complicated circumstances to get that coveted degree. And not all of the problems that college students face today may be cured through the remedies found in a pamphlet.

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