College Freshmen Are Just Whining

Freshmen surveyed think they have it bad now. Just wait until they hit senior year and face real life

Don’t college freshmen seem like they have it all? Pseudo-independence financially and otherwise with the cushion of Mom and Dad’s checkbook back home, relatively easy gen-ed classes, and a sea of majors and life directions to choose. What a life.

But they don’t think so. An annual nationwide survey of college freshmen conducted by a group of researchers at UCLA found that this year’s freshmen are reporting the lowest emotional health in more than two decades. Only slightly more than half of these whiners report “above average” emotional health. The rest seem to think they’re too stressed, too pressured to find lucrative post-college jobs and have too much on their plates all around.

So what’s the hurry to worry?

Experts interviewed for a recent New York Times article seem to think the sour state of the economy’s to blame for the class of 2014’s emotional slump. In fact, students surveyed reported that more of their fathers than ever – 4.9 percent – are unemployed. College counseling experts say the kids are feeling more pressure about tuition, loans, academic achievement and finding graduation’s Holy Grail – the first job.

As a recent college grad, this all makes me groan and roll my eyes. I don’t buy it. They’re just whining and, to me, don’t have much of a reason to feel the way they do. They just think they’re stressed about landing jobs in this economy. Most underclassmen (and even a handful of juniors) I know from Temple University, where I attended school, are glad they’ve still got time to spare and, more importantly, are pretty darn confident this whole recession thing will blow over by the time they march to “Pomp and Circumstance.”

My freshman year in college, I was sitting pretty. My biggest worry was how to cut my “History of War and Peace” gen ed a few times a month to take on freelance writing gigs while still passing with at least a ‘B’. My stress about getting out of school didn’t hit me – and believe me, it rumbled in like a bulldozer when it did – until the semester before I graduated. That these college freshmen are even remotely worried about what’s going to happen more than three years down the line puzzles me.

I don’t think the average college freshman has enough experience to grasp what “real life” with a full-time job, bills and the like is all about. Sure, my 17-year-old brother who’s in the process of deciding which college to attend understands that the tuition at my alma mater, which runs somewhere around $24,000 for a Pennsylvania resident, is much more affordable than the roughly $40,000 it costs per year to attend Drexel. But he also seems to believe it’s a possibility that my parents will buy him a Nissan Altima coup for his 18th birthday. That’s your college freshman mindset for you – they’re starting to understand how the whole money thing works, but they don’t really know.

All this panic and reporting of a lack of emotional well-being by college freshmen is (for most) just a visceral reaction to headlines shouting about unemployment and the tanked economy. They just think they should be upset, and they don’t want to feel the pressure. They need to relax and savor their young college days while they have them.