Opinion: Society’s pressure is breaking the next generation

By John Cooper Lawton

I’m not a bad driver. I’ve driven all over the East Coast, including four nonstop trips to Panama City Beach, two trips to Virginia (one of which was through a tornado) and various six hour or more drives to and from Ole Miss. I never once had a wreck, until this semester. I have been in two wrecks this semester.

My friends also believe I am a safe driver, considering they almost always want me to drive on our road trips. So, why would I be in two wrecks in such a short period of time? The answer is simple: college.

“These are the best years of your life. Enjoy every second,” everyone keeps telling me. Well, that’s hard to do when all of my classes require hours of homework, not including the time it takes to prepare for the tests in my classes.

How am I expected to keep my scholarships (many of which require me to keep a 3.6 GPA or higher), graduate in four years and enjoy myself at the same time? It’s impossible without sacrificing my psychological, physical and emotional health.

This is why I believe college asks too much of its students. The classic college advice is, “You can have two of three things: partying, studying or sleeping.” This is a pathetic truth.

At our ages, we are in our prime physically. However, our decision-making skills are not fully developed until we are 25, meaning we are out of school by the time we are fully capable of knowing when to say “yes” or “no.” So how can we be expected to make the right decision to go to bed instead of hanging out with friends or pulling yet another all-nighter?

We live longer than ever before. Yet, we are living our lives faster. “Enjoying” college is almost laughable. These four, five or six years of our lives are being seen as the only years for us to live. But, our ability to live is being stifled.

Pressure for students to find future spouses during their college years is stronger than ever. The mandate to have extracurricular activities is stronger. The need to have internships is stronger. We are fast-forwarding through our college careers. We are required to pack more into a four-year degree than ever before.

No longer can a high school diploma earn you a managing position at the local grocery store. Being related by blood is not enough to earn you a respectable position in the family’s store. College is a must, and just having a degree is not enough.

Many scholarships require one to be active in the community, involved in extracurricular activities and have strong academics. Yes, I understand that universities and businesses are looking for well-rounded individuals, but at a certain point, these individuals become half the people they could have been because they stretch themselves too thin.

We are expected to excel academically. We are told to make connections. We are encouraged, if not forced, to participate in things outside of the classroom. What is lost with these surmounting pressures? For me, it was my car — twice.

If I cannot manage enough time to sleep the recommended eight hours a night, then why should I be pressured into working so hard? Why should I wear myself out now, saving nothing for later in life? Things need to change.

Scholarships should last longer than four years. Four years is not enough to earn the credentials needed to score jobs in big markets, especially when trying to earn two degrees. Scholarships should be extended to five or six years.

Plus, if I have a better chance of earning more money at better jobs because I had more time in college to build my resume, then I will be more likely to give back to my alma mater. That’s what you call a win-win for me and my college.

The atmosphere at college must change. If we are expected to “live life to the fullest” during our primes, then we must be allotted time to do this. We cannot be expected to make friends and experiences that will last us a lifetime if we are required to hit the books with every second of free-time we have.

Studies suggest that a student should study two to three hours for every hour of lecture. If you are trying to graduate on time, you will likely take 15 hours.

Following that guideline, a student should spend a minimum of 30 hours outside of class studying. I do not have 30 hours to study, and I do not know any peers with that type of time, except for the ones that have no life outside of school.

Many students cannot handle this. I nearly have a 4.0 GPA, and I could not stand to look at my books for that long. The stress of maintaining scholarships, making memories that will last a lifetime and creating an impressive resume causes many students to forgo their responsibilities and party or, even worse, cause physical harm to themselves. Society is breaking the next generation.

Sure, kids will often make bad decisions and party instead of study. Yes, we do need to expand our horizons and become involved in organizations. And yes, I know that the whole point of college is to learn. But, maybe it’s not too much to ask if everyone just backed off of us a little.

William Allen White, a renowned Kansas journalist and namesake for the University of Kansas’ journalism school, summed up my point best: “In education, we are striving not to teach youth to make a living, but to make a life.”


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