The dark side of college: How are students really doing?

Miki Akiyama, a sophomore marketing major from Tokyo, Japan, is one student who is experiencing mental challenges while attending school. Common things students struggle with are juggling school with their personal lives, feeling like there isn’t enough time in the day, and achieving their goals without suffering. Photo by Misha Mosiichuk.

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“Good, how are you?”

This is the response most students at Dixie State University give without a second thought when asked how they are doing. There really isn’t much thought given to the response, and it almost seems second nature to just reply with that simple answer then continue on with your day.

The real question is, how are DSU students REALLY doing attending school in the midst of a pandemic while facing everyday struggles and approaching midterms?

Students shared their raw feelings as to how they are doing:

Too many elements to juggle

Jacoby Terlington, a junior psychology major from St. George, spends his days in class, at the skate park, doing homework and struggling to balance the elements of work and fun like most 20-year-olds do.

“I know it’s time for me to grow up and focus on getting an education, but I want to be able to have fun at the skate park every now and again too,” Terlington said. “As school amps up the amount of work that’s due, I feel like it is the only thing I do sometimes.”

College courses are already demanding most students’ time and attention, and the workload intensifies as midterm season arrives halfway through the semester.

“I feel like I used to be able to wake up optimistic and excited for the day; I now wake up and just think about all the homework and projects I have to do, and no one wants to do that,” Terlington said.

Not enough time in the day

“I really don’t think there is a time when I don’t think about school,” said Chelsea Wistisen, a sophomore elementary education major from Soda Springs, Idaho.

College students typically have classes Monday through Friday from mid-morning to the late afternoon hours. After exhausting their mind by being attentive in class, students then have to either fill the night shift at work or use more brainpower studying for an exam or a big assignment coming up. To college students, this is quite a bit of work when compared to a typical nine-to-five job.

The average workweek consists of just over 34 hours each week. Wistisen’s schedule totals up to 48 hours per week just at school and work alone. This doesn’t include any study or homework time. This type of schedule consists of more than 10 hours over the normal American workweek.

“I am definitely juggling my school life, sleep and my desire to stay active,” Wistisen said. “Then when I do get to [workout], I just want to sleep because I didn’t get enough sleep during the week.”

Achieve my goals, but suffer doing it

Working as a healthcare professional can be viewed as a stressful career. As the world faces the pandemic, Liz McQuarrie, a senior nursing major from Virginia Beach, Virginia, is transparent about the stress and daily struggles she goes through.

“A lot of time is spent studying and preparing for class,” McQuarrie said. “Every semester, I have a mini freak out trying to figure out how I am going to fit in everything that needs to be done, but it somehow always happens.”

Students like McQuarrie dedicate countless hours to homework and school, but not enough time for themselves.

“I find it really hard to take care of myself every semester,” McQuarrie said. “Balancing trying to eat well, exercise, get sleep, and for me making time for important doctor’s appointments is always a challenge. Trying to find time to do things I enjoy is really hard.”

McQuarrie isn’t alone in struggling to do things for herself, as depression rates have tripled in adults since COVID-19 has hit.

If you or anyone you know needs help or guidance, the Booth Wellness Center is a free service for DSU students. It is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and closed on the weekends.

“I know a lot of [DSU] students try to juggle everything, and I don’t feel like they are given enough grace or credit for how hard they are working,” McQuarrie said.