Why Is College So Stressful? (11 Reasons Why)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Jobs these days basically require a college degree of some sort and the more these requirements are hammered home the more stressed out the students seem to become.

College is stressful for a ton of reasons, but today we’ll be going over the top 11 reasons why. In my research and personal experience, let’s discover all the reasons why.

Why Is College So Stressful?

1. Scholarships and Financial Aid

College is expensive, there is no doubt about that. It can cost over $20k per year to attend a 4-year college. That means that people often rely on financial aid and scholarships.

You can lose access to your financial aid if your grades start to slip too much. This would take away most people’s ability to attend college completely.

Scholarships are also usually based on grades as well and have requirements for your GPA. This puts tremendous pressure on students to perform as best they can.

Not only maintaining these grades but getting them to begin with to be eligible for scholarships can put a strain on students.

However, you can usually talk to an advisor if you feel you may be struggling and they can offer resources to help you out so you can remain in college.

2. Difficult Classes

Classes in college are significantly more difficult compared to high school. This is even more true for STEM and medicine-related fields of study.

Most students are used to certain curriculums and the jumps from high school to college can be very jarring. It can take a period of adjustment.

Even some of the brightest students struggle when they enter college because the jump from say algebra to calculus is quite significant.

It’s not always that much of a jump, but a lot of subjects have a steep learning curve. Math and science seem to be the biggest hurdles people have though.

3. Pressure to Perform Well

This pressure may come from finances, such as the scholarships and financial aid talked about previously.

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What a lot of people tend to forget though is that “gifted” students have such an easy time in high school and are revered so much that once they hit college, it’s a nightmare.

They have pressure to uphold their grades for themselves and maybe even because of family pressures. Students considered non-gifted also suffer from the pressure to do well.

For non-traditional students, like adults, it can be even more difficult. Many people feel bad for going to college later in life and feel the pressure to do well or feel like a failure.

4. Future Job Prospects

Some fields of work will absolutely look over your college transcripts to see how you performed during school. This added pressure can make it seem like you need to be perfect.

Residency for medical schools is sort of like that. However, you can still get them, just not your first choice usually.

Most other fields are less strict but just want to see that you’ve done decent enough. In computer sciences, they like to see code written along with a degree.

So, as you can not all job options will be so strict with how well you’ve done in college. Most will just be content that you finished it.

5. Time Management

A lot of new students struggle with managing their time. You go from a structured high school environment to basically being thrown into the adult world

Many times new students will struggle with waking up, getting to classes on time, or finishing assignments. There are also distractions such as parties or loud dorms.

It can take a while for people to adjust to this new way of life, especially if they are fresh out of high school. Most do get used to the new way of living.

6. Not Enough Breaks

Not Enough Breaks

There are a lot of students taking 18+ credit hours a semester. Regular full-time is 15 and the 3 extra credits may not seem like a lot, but it really does add up.

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Most classes will be between 1-4 credit hours, so if you have a full schedule, you may find yourself running out of time and not having a chance to breathe between classes and sleep.

If you find yourself struggling, find some time and take a moment to gather your thoughts and it may even help to schedule everything out, including breaks.

7. Changes in Habits

Changing your habits in college takes some effort. It’s not even just about time management but you need to make sure you are doing everything you need to do and by yourself.

This point is mostly for on-campus living because you no longer have the help of your parents to manage everything for you. It becomes something you have to do for yourself.

A lot of students struggle with the transition and if you need additional help, advisors are there to assist you with anything you need.

8. Group Projects

Group projects will become the bane of your existence. Maybe you get lucky and have a group of productive members, but that seems to be a rarity.

Relying on other people to do their part or else your grade suffers seems unfair and it genuinely is. Group projects should be graded on everyone’s individual pieces.

It may be to teach you that you work together or you all fail. In the real world, in jobs, if someone doesn’t do their part they get reprimanded and most of the time not everyone suffers too.

9. Lack of Sleep

With wanting to live the full college experience many people find themselves falling behind in the sleep department.

This is an issue because your body needs sleep to function at its optimal capacity. Sleep deprivation can cause mental and physical health issues and should be a priority.

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Crunching for a test can be good because of the study time. However, do not give up your sleep for it or you may come to regret the decision in the long run.

Parties may seem like fun, but don’t ignore your health just for a night of fun. It’s not a bad idea to get out and have fun on the weekends, but don’t risk your grades for constant fun.

10. Debt

Debt is a huge factor, even if you do good and get scholarships many still worry about paying back what wasn’t covered.

Debt can range from tens to hundreds of thousands and can make it feel like you are trapped or drowning in it.

11. Teachers

Sometimes teachers are the problem. Some have extremely high expectations or treat their students poorly because they are burnt out.

There isn’t much to be done except grin and bear it until you no longer have to suffer through their class. If you feel like you are being targeted, talk to a dean or department head.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why college is so hard, why college is so boring, and why grad school is so expensive.


There are a lot of reasons college is stressful, but if you just take a beat and relax you’ll do fine. Don’t get so inside your head with doubt or things may end up feeling overwhelming.

It feels like it never ends, but there is a light at the end of the road because you’ll learn a lot of new things and make friends or network for future jobs. The future is bright!


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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