The Modern Plague of College Burnout: Are Students Offered Too Much?

Joshua Woolcott, Contributing Writer

“Do you even have time to sleep?”

“When was the last time you ate?”

“Make sure you take some time for yourself!”

“It sounds like you’re taking on too much.”

“I don’t know how you do it; I could never.”

            All these phrases are things that I hear several times a week. This is because I am a heavily involved student, with tennis, track, KBVU, BVTV, the Tack, SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Council), Deans Fellows, work study, and other things that I sometimes am unable to even remember. All of this also goes on top of the already stressful times that college induces on every student. Most people, upon hearing my daily schedule, usually say one of the previous quotes from the beginning. After talking with various students, faculty, and family, I realized that there are times where I have asked myself the following question: Am I being offered too many opportunities?

I know that sounds like a ridiculous question but let us take a moment and explore the idea. According to Southern New Hampshire University, upwards of 85% of college students claim to have felt totally overwhelmed within the past year. I have heard an outstanding number of students explaining how burned out, stressed, and overwhelmed they are every single day. It seems to me that no matter how common it is, we never really have any way to get around college burnout.

 College burnout has a few notable symptoms. These include a lack of interest in daily activities, dropping grades, less interest in extracurriculars, and increasingly irritable. All of these seem to be just a way of life around college campuses. With this seeming to be “the way of life” for a large number of students, another thought that I had was “What if college students were given a limit on what they could be a part of?” For example, what if administrators said students cannot be involved in more than three groups/sports at a time to encourage students to focus on their academics? It does not take a genius, however, to realize that this would be met with severe pushback from students. It may seem odd, but I believe that students who were heavily involved would be incredibly upset, even if they spend so much time feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. This would not only be because they would not have the ability to do everything they want, but because they are having their choices made for them.

            On each of my visits to BV, I was always told that you can be a part of multiple things due to the size of the school. As someone who was involved in many extracurricular activities in high school, this felt like a perfect fit for me. Before I even arrived on campus as a student for the first time, I was already involved in multiple groups. As time went on, however, the burnout began to set in.

            My initial reaction when asked the question of being offered too much was one of disgust. I remember thinking “That is ridiculous. I would rather be a part of a million different things than a part of nothing.” But as time went on, I   noticed a few subtle changes in parts of my life. My grades began dropping, I was retaining less information from my classes, I felt irritated more often, all on top of a constant feeling of physical exhaustion from running back and forth (sometimes literally) from all my different obligations in my day-to-day student life.

            I doubt I will be dropping anything I am a part of anytime soon, but perhaps we should take time in between academic years to ask ourselves the question: “Am I doing too much?” If the answer to that question is yes, perhaps we should be more willing to finally say no every now and then to give ourselves some breathing room. I might try to take more time out of my day for myself while also trying to “stand up for myself” in a way. I think learning to say “no” every now and then would save me a lot of pain in the future.

Remember to take some time for yourself. Get some rest, eat two to three meals a day, get up and move around, do anything to help you feel better. Burnout  is common, but it does not last forever.