Predictable Needs and Stress Periods for Members

Creating a chapter culture that highly values academics is complex. That doesn’t mean that the chapter is boring or doesn’t also have a great deal of fun. Chapter members can both work hard and play hard so long as the work gets done and the best results are achieved. Often some predictable issues influence whether or not a member achieves the results they are capable of producing. One such negative influence is stress.

The cycle of student stress can be used to provide programming at appropriate times during the year. The following cycle can be used as a blueprint to highlight the needs that occur at various times of the year.

September

  • Homesickness; especially for new students.
  • Values crisis: students confronted with questions of conscience over values conflicts in the areas of race, drugs, alcohol, morality, religion, and social expectations.
  • Feelings of inadequacy and inferiority develop because of the discrepancy between high school or community college status and grades and initial college performance.
  • “In Loco Parentis Blues:” students feel depressed because of real or perceived restrictive policies of the college or university.
  • Foreign students can sense confusion, vulnerability, and lack of any advocates in power positions on campus.

October

  • New students begin to realize that life at college is not as perfect as they were led to believe by parents, teachers, and counselors. Old problems seem to continue and new ones are added. An external reality in which they had placed their hope often fails them.
  • Mid-term workload pressures are followed by feelings of failure and loss of self-esteem.
  • Sexual conflicts and confusion result when confronting, often for the first time, different sexual orientations and conformity to different standards of sexual behavior.
  • Non-dating students sense a loss of esteem because so much emphasis is placed on dates.
  • Job panic for mid-year graduates.

November

  • Academic pressure is beginning to mount because of procrastination, difficulty of work, and lack of ability.
  • Depression and anxiety increase because of feelings that one should have adjusted to college by now.
  • Homecoming blues develop because of no dates or lack of participation in activities.
  • Economic anxiety: funds from summer work and/or family are beginning to run out.
  • Some students have stopped expanding their network of friends beyond the first few people with whom they came into close contact.

December

  • Extra-curricular time strain: seasonal parties, concerts, social service projects, and religious activities drain student energies.
  • Anxiety, fear, and guilt increase as final examinations approach and holiday papers are due.
  • Pre-holiday depression, especially for those who have concerns for family, those who have no home to visit, and for those who prefer not to go home because of family conflicts.
  • Financial strain because of holiday gifts and travel costs.
  • Pressure increases to perform socially because of the approaching vacation and extended separation time.

January

  • Post-holiday depression at, again, being away from home security and positive strokes.
  • Significant time spent socializing; perceptions that academics haven’t really begun until the second or third week of classes.

February

  • Many students experience optimism because second semester is perceived as going “downhill.”
  • Vocational/career/major choices cause anxiety and depression.
  • Couples begin to establish stronger ties or experience weakening of their relationship.
  • Depression increases for students who have failed to establish strong social relationships or achieve a moderate amount of recognition from their peers.

March

  • Drug and alcohol use increases significantly before, during, and after Spring Break.
  • Academic pressures increase.
  • Extra-curricular crisis for juniors (Will I get my internship?) and seniors (Will I get into graduate school? Will I get a job? Have I really learned anything? Did I select the wrong major?).

April/May

  • Academic pressures continue as mid-term results are received and finals approach.
  • Frustration and confusion develop because of decisions necessary for summer or fall pre-registration.
  • Summer job pressures.
  • Major often has to be declared and pressure mounts.
  • Papers and exams are beginning to pile up, but motivation to study decreases as weather changes and becomes warmer.
  • Job recruitment panic.