The countdown is on! As May comes to a close, so does the hustle and bustle – and stress – of the school year. Ask any student how many school days are left. The answer will come without hesitation.

School stress begins early. Preschoolers fear detachment from their parents. Kindergartners stay at school for an entire day. As students get older, stress levels increase dramatically.

Four causes of school stress

College brings definitive changes to a young adult’s life. It is a great time of excitement but can also lead to much stress.

  • For many students, it is the first time living away from parents and family. Everything is foreign and a bit daunting.
  • A college education comes with a high price tag. With student loans and ever rising debt, no student is exempt from financial burden.
  • Ask a college student, “What are you majoring in?” and watch the facial expression. The decision is life changing.
  • Academic stress “may be the most long-term cause of stress” in a college student.


Students attend college to learn, but the stressors are usually more intense than anticipated. This leads to performance issues and takes a toll emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of the students who drop out of college do so for mental health reasons.

– The National Alliance on Mental Illness

It’s important to note that stress, anxiety, and depression are different things.  Stress is a feeling to a certain situation. Anxiety is a response to stress.  Depression is a chronic state of feeling down. Stress can lead to anxiety and depression, which is why coping with stress is so important. Here’s an example. Students feel stressed because of a situation, such as finals. Anxiety or depression can set in when burdened with overwhelming stress. Stress affects people negatively when it occurs frequently or long term. Did you know that some short term stress is actually beneficial? Short bursts of stress are linked to improved cognitive performance, a stronger immune system, and less social anxiety.

Student Studying

Study drugs and behavioral dangers

Some students experience relentless stress during finals and will do whatever it takes to get through the week. Many stay up for 24 hours straight struggling with extra workloads. They drink highly caffeinated drinks to stay awake as one sleepless night turns into another, leading to dangerous states of sleep deprivation. As some turn to caffeine, others turn to study drugs to get through finals. Study drugs, also called focus drugs, are stimulant medications prescribed for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) patients but used for non-prescribed purposes. The misuse and abuse of these drugs is illegal, but the trend continues to magnify. A study in USA Today found:

Nearly one-third of college students have participated in the misuse of stimulant prescription drugs at least once while attending college.

– Center of Young Adult Health and Development

Students say drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, or Vyvanse block out distractions helping them focus on their work. High doses of these drugs can cause an irregular heartbeat, seizure, or heart attack. To users, concern over serious side effects is almost nonexistent. Put yourself in this situation. A close friend approaches you. He is sleep deprived from studying through two sleepless nights, has one final left, and needs a grade of 90% to pass the course. He begs you for just one of your prescription Adderall pills and offers you $20. What would you do?

Adderall pills

How helicopter parents increase the concern

Why is there such a big concern with grades? Students need high GPAs to compete for better scholarships and graduate school acceptance. Many students say they fear academic failure, and 59% of students say they feel pressure from their parents to succeed academically. Sometimes the issue is directly related to helicopter parenting:

College students with helicopter parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction in life.

– Journal of Child and Family Studies

How do well-meaning parents add to school stress? An adult child’s independence is decreased when parents stay too excessively involved. As a college student, he or she begins to lack confidence and problem solving capabilities due to constant parent hovering, leading to psychological issues and low self-esteem because the student doesn’t know how to deal with failure on his or her own.

By instinct, parents want to protect their kids, and sometimes the line between compassion and overstepping boundaries becomes blurred. Parenting is difficult! It is a blessing for parents to love, nurture, and support their child during school stress. Continue to do so with guidance. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).