What Are the Common Causes of Stress in College Students?

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The center of this research paper is the dependency of college students’ self-image on society’s standards, thus leading them out of a healthy median regarding self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, and self-obsession. Most of the situations that every college student goes through, regardless of the sex, originates from the same source. To fully view the panorama, the factors to be taken in consideration are: generations, pop culture, psychology, media propaganda, and the potential damage.

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By gradually shifting into each one, they see a recurrent pattern that shares the same characteristics. As part of this specific group, it is more than necessary to achieve an answer to a common flaw found in any student body.

Emotional Intelligence within college students

The student body of a college ranges from early adolescence to late twenties (17-23), conglomerating different types of generations, which present various ideals, perceptions, self-esteem, and influences on external factors. If the following factors affect the emotional intelligence of most of the student body, the median for a healthy emotional intelligence may never reflect or enhance their self-concept.


To comprehend the diversity of college students, it is proper to divide them by generations since each possess particular qualities that are present in each individual, thus defining attitudes, ideals, perception, self-esteem, and political opinions. The categorizing of generation brings forth defaults or patterns of irregular behavior that reflect upon academic and emotional intelligence.

From early adolescence to early twenties (1996 TBD), the Generation Z is formed. Mainly known as the selfie generation, this group is the demographic cohort that follow the Millennials, as Strauss and Howe (1991). The characteristics that the group shares is directly related to the advances in technology, interacting with the social platforms as a way of socialization. As Strauss and Howe suggest, this pattern of behavior is linked to the growing up through a Great Recession, giving a feeling of unsettlement and insecurity (1991). Other characteristics that define the generation z can be derived from the colloquial name used to refer to this particular group. Mainly known as the selfie generation, it is believed that they are self-centered, narcistic, and obsessive about their physical self-appearance. Many of the other characteristics known, mentioned by Stein Wellner, is that they are more likely to come from a more varied family background (2000). From the previous point, it is inferred that they are far more empathic, altruistic, overly friendly (attributed to the multicultural family) and, mainly recognized as tech savvies.

The other generation that constitutes the student body in the college campus is the Millennials (1977 1995). They are known by their lack of technological intelligence, and their ingenuity of believing anything the social media portray as a single truth. Howe and Strauss in Characteristics of the Millennial Generation (2003) present the following aspects:

  • Special: always been treated as special and important. Every milestone was marked with celebration and praise. They carry a sense of entitlement about them, feeling as if they can solve world problems that previous generations have failed to solve. May claim privacy but crave attention.
  • Sheltered: Highly protected as children, growing up in a time of increasing safety measures; rarely left unsupervised.
  • Team Oriented: may sacrifice their own identity to be part of the team, preferring egalitarian leaderships, not hierarchies. While they are group-oriented within their own cohort, they may politely exclude other generations. They do not want to stand out of the group, just be seen as a equal.
  • Achieving: focus on getting good grades, hard work, involvement in extracurricular activities is resulting higher achievement levels. Seeing college as a key to a high paying job and, ultimately, success. Their focus is more on the world of achievement rather than personal development.
  • Pressured: this generation may have lost a sense of pure spontaneous play; they may struggle with handling free time and time management in general. They feel pressured to succeed; they feel pressured to succeed.
  • Conventional: respectful to the point of not questioning authority; they are civic minded and believe that the government know what’s best and will take care of them. They value their parents’ opinion very highly; supporting and believing in social rules, more in line with their parents’ values than most other generations have been.

Pop Culture

The term pop culture serves as an umbrella term, enlisting various fields where every aspect of any art is met. As for civilization, this term takes on an array of many genres including popular music, print, sports, entertainment, media propaganda, and television. From the newest generation (selfie) up to the millennials, society has inserted in each member an invisible mind, whose perception is what we, as a whole, consider it a standard. From the youngest to the oldest college student, the media regulates most of the things they find appealing. A basic example would be a favorite artist, singer or dancer, exhibiting certain behaviors, and extravagant (if so) lifestyles. As part of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs demonstrates, we, as humans, have the necessity of belonging, and to do so, the emulation of such can lead to feel accepted.

For men, whose age range considered is 17-23, pop culture could lead to ridiculousness regarding the demonstration of simple human emotions. A figure to be taken in consideration is Dan Bilzerian, a famous Instagram figure whose main page only demonstrates the lack of sentiments. For many of the boys and men that are now growing as part of this society, having a figure as such, that only promotes superficiality, can define who they will be and their relationship with any other human. In depth of what is being mentioned, this behavior can be recognized, or even assumed, as toxic masculinity, leaving no space for any trait that could be considered weak.

For women, whose age range considered is 17-23, television and modeling industries can obliterate the self-esteem, leaving no space for a healthy emotional intelligence. Young girls trying to feel comfortable in their bodies, whilst going through a hormonal stage, look for role models to follow firing the mirror neurons, thus copying behavioral pattern (good or bad). Due to the societal objective perception of beauty, most women suffer psychological and health damages in the attempt to obtain the unattainable goal.

In a college environment, having two sides whom are in midst of defining who they are, emotional intelligence peaks its lowest. The factor that sets it so is the external dependence of self-assurance. Most, women and men, do not believe in their capacities or beauties due to the constant necessity of reassurance, pushing them into possible sentimental relationships were co-dependence is highly likely. In the real world, emotions should be constantly checked and recognized. Having the ability to be fully aware of our surroundings, recognizing, understanding, and managing emotions could lead to a potential increment in emotional intelligence. Although, the view is centered on the heavy aspects that cause a catastrophic downfall of emotional intelligence, Salovely, 2013, stated that emotional intelligence correlates to some extent with test that measure verbal abilities, it overlaps only just a little with standard measures of personality such as openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.


In midst of defining the collateral damage emotional intelligence suffers in college students too immersed in the pop culture, the concepts of self-worth, self-esteem, self-image, and self-obsession are brought forth.

To have a clear idea of what self-worth is, defined by Abrascal, Brucato, Brucato & Stephenson (2017), is the degree to which you feel worthwhile as a human being within the standards of the culture. For both sexes, a measure of much they value themselves and feel useful in the world. Self-image can represent how they may be viewing their bodies under today’s circumstances. Lastly, self-obsession, a compulsive tendency to keep track of every little detail that the individual goes through. This obsessive-compulsive behavior can be justified by low levels of self-esteem.

The resurgence of these issues presented a structural equation modeling reveling that individuals with low self-esteem, body-esteem, and emotional intelligence were more likely to report social anxiety (Abdollahi &Abu, 2016). Having unstable and external factors where there is a vast and total dependency for the emotional intelligence, the individual may never reach the median. If the exterior factors are constantly changing, shifting the paradigm, asking for more irrational concepts of beauty; neither men or women could ever alleviate the constant petitions that last a brief moment in time. (Abdollahi & Abu Talib, Mar. 2016)

Media Propaganda

The exposure to idealized media is a key factor to how men & women of ages 17-23 view themselves, whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with their physical appearance. With this generation, men & women are subject to always wanting to look their best, even if their body ideals appear to be unrealistic; Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) exposes these young adults to believe that whomever has the nicest body & face gains the most popularity, receives all the attention, is very pleased with themselves. The young adults are influenced by what they see & they begin to believe that they have to look a certain way to be able to be accepted in society. However, not achieving the goals of having the thinnest waist, the muscular body, the well sculpted face, is detrimental to anyone who strongly believes that is the only way to be accepted. With thinness presented as the ideal body shape and a necessary prerequisite for health and happiness, anyone falling short of this ideal is vulnerable to depression, poor self-esteem, and general body dissatisfaction (Romeo Vitelli, 2013; Psychology Today Media Spotlight). It is reported that Facebook content has made men & woman of ages 16 to 40 more body conscious because they compare themselves to celebrities & even their own friends; The comparisons put them in a state of sadness because the desire to look a certain way so that they can please those around them. Young people who have reported that they were overweight were more likely to also report having suicidal thoughts, ranging from ages 15-21, they were dissatisfied with their body image but as they got older, the importance of self-image lessened (Sharyn Alden, August 29, 2013, Journal of Adolescent Health). Women are more prone to feeling dissatisfaction with themselves than men because they have higher expectations, body wise. Television conveys they idea that woman should always be thin or have curves & have the slimmest face whereas men just want to be muscular. Unrealistic standards set by the media has taken a toll on much of the young adults in todays’ society; Although this belief of having to look a certain way to gain more of something will certainly be around for a long time, knowing how to rationalize it will help young adults focus on more realistic ideals for their image.

Potential Damage

As seen previously, the potential damage can go from emotional intelligence to total physical dissatisfaction. Emotional intelligence, defined by Abrascal, Brucato, Brucato & Stephenson (2017), is the act of involving a cluster set of skills including: being perceptive about feelings and motivations of others, as well as yourself, being able to motivate yourself and persevere in the face of frustration; ability to delay gratification, control emotions and impulses’ empathizing with others. An age period in which both, men and women, undergo drastic changes in their life, such as the development of the ability regarding communication skills to social be accepted, fit in. As previously studied, emotional intelligence has various aspects that, failed to be met, can lead to disastrous results.

Intrapersonal intelligence refers to that of complete understanding of your feelings; where, when and why your feelings are that way. Interpersonal intelligence is the opposite, it’s the comprehension, validation of other peoples’ feelings; understanding their situation and its circumstances. Both intelligences are required to properly function in society, and, most definitely, reach healthy levels of emotional intelligence.

Due to the direct relationship every college student has with technology, the unhealthy cycle continues incessantly. As long as college students keep being utterly reliant on what the social media, pop culture, media propaganda has to say about each individual; the overall median would not reach a healthy point. The constant indirect judgment received by the likes of each social platform would be the ultimate dictator of what is acceptable, and what not.

A definite solution would be to promote the self-acceptance, self-love, and even a possible separation or reduction of the time spent in each social media. The less time college students spend perusing at impossible models of lifestyle, the more time they can spend enjoying the simple details of life. A distance from all the technology might just re-establish interpersonal relationships in between students. Furthermore, the limitation of these spaces and the constant repetition of self love campaigns could raise college students emotional intelligence to a healthy median.

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