College Students Are Getting Burnt Out
Updated: May 25
College students prove burnout is not just for older folks working a 9-5 anymore. Over the years, college students who were once energized are now struggling to enjoy life. Students nationwide have had to adjust from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to the effects of college burnout.
What is College Burnout?
Burnout comes in various forms. However, it is commonly known as when someone constantly feels mentally and physically exhausted due to how much stress is endured. Specifically for college students, this can entail losing interest in school and dreading anything academic-related, such as upcoming assignments or tests, going to class, etc. The opposite of thriving, to put it bluntly.
A study done by the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America reported that Gen Z adults, ages 18 to 23, have significantly higher levels of stress than other generations. Further, the study discussed 87% of Gen Z adults who said they are in college, experiencing significant stress from their educational experiences.
Personal Testimonies of Burnout
I interviewed undergraduate students, Tony and Anthony, who defined what college burnout looks like in their personal lives along with the effects it has on them. Tony is an IT major who described his burnout as being constantly mentally exhausted. He is often stuck sitting in front of a computer because of his course workload. He states, “It sucks knowing I have to relive this useless course load repeatedly each week.”
Tony goes on to say how in earlier semesters, he’s found some enjoyment or at least practical application in the classes he’s been taking. However, his current course load has been unnecessary stress, as graduation is approaching. Tony further said, “The being stressed out part is the worst because it makes me easily angry and irritated by people.”
On top of this, he discusses how he’s been unable to enjoy anything anymore due to constant work. His hobbies are non-existent, and he finds achieving personal goals challenging since school takes up most of his life. Tony says, “College is just a matter of urgency at this point versus being important. Due to busy work, I cannot earn certifications that would benefit my future. Let alone try to do interviews for potential jobs. I either want to go to bed to escape it all or scream into a pillow.”
On the other hand, Anthony, an IT major, describes his burnout as an overwhelming experience. He states, "It's not the difficulty of the coursework; it's just how consuming it is because you feel like you don't have time to do other things in your life, such as hobbies." Anthony discusses that he cannot turn off school like a switch, even when he leaves the campus scene and retreats to the comfort of his room. Anthony describes how this looks by saying, "It's constantly like okay, I just finished this test; what do I need to work on next because there's always something after? It never ends."
The lack-lustered classes and professors contribute to his current boredom and lack of caring because of the work given to him; although he can concentrate on the job at hand, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by it all. In addition, he mentions that he has stopped caring about school. This is due to the societal standard that college is the way to go to be deemed successful and accomplished in life. During his whole time at school, he sums up his current state by saying, “It’s like seeing the finish line but not caring about it.”
Is Burnout A Problem?
When questioned about this issue and whether it should be addressed in the academic setting, Tony and Anthony discussed how difficult this was to answer. The reason is that colleges don’t seem to care about this problem due to the implemented graduation requirements. If they were worried about burnout, the workloads would look completely different. They are struggling in their own lives, let alone trying to figure out how to help others dealing with the same problems like burnout.
How Society Views Mental Health
As for how society views students suffering from college burnout, both gentlemen responded similarly to how our communities tell students, "What did you expect" or "suck it up; this is life." Today’s culture, precisely corporate culture, does not view mental health issues as an issue because that is how life is, but it should not be this way. This mindset surrounding mental health is that college students know what they signed up for, but no one asks for mental health problems.
Tony's response states explicitly that if he is currently experiencing burnout before graduation, how is he expected to go straight into the workforce right out of college? He continues to say something that we can deeply consider, "I am currently experiencing burnout before graduation, and I do not want to start working directly after college due to this. However, I do not want to be unproductive, and I do not want to be worthless to my family if I do not go straight into a job." This is the reality many college students face; the feeling of proving something to themselves and everyone else around them.
APA. (2020, October). Stress in America™ 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis. American Psychological Association. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2020/report-october
Kosmin, J. (2023, February 3). Stress vs. Burnout: Addressing Burnout Among College Students. Malvern Behavioral Health. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from