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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Short academic breaks, high demands fuel unhappiness”

    The break is over, and most students probably had homework due Monday, meaning they had to devote “”break”” time to dense reading, busywork and finals preparation. No one ever said college would be easy, or that the academic world goes on hold for the holidays, but it’s disheartening that one of the few breaks during the semester cannot be even remotely relaxing.

    For starters, it doesn’t technically begin until Thanksgiving Thursday, so even those with understanding professors burdened themselves with skipping class just to get home. The workload didn’t change, either, so while some could have been enjoying more time with family and friends during the weekend, responsibilities danced around in the back of their heads and they couldn’t converse without thinking about everything that needed to get done.

    Thanksgiving break is only one example of why students may be unsatisfied with the way things are going. There are so many reasons why students would be unhappy, especially considering their relentless academic demands. Though students are primarily in college to get an education, it’s difficult to make everything else completely secondary, and it’s dangerous as well.

    Students may achieve high grades if they discipline themselves enough to study all of the time, but they’ll most likely be unhappy after weeks of minimal social interaction and physical outlets. Without a balance, students may become chronically depressed. They can force themselves to try to escape somehow, but sometimes the academic expectations of college don’t allow for mental health days or breaks.

    Because the real world isn’t sympathetic, administrators argue that there is no reason to cut college students any slack, even during holidays intended for family gathering. Many grow from adversity and rough patches, and they find more strength within themselves than they knew they had. All this comes afterward, and in the meantime, students suffer immense anxiety they weren’t prepared for. There’s nothing wrong with taking a slower transition into the real world, meaning students won’t have to work so hard during their rare time off school. Without any leeway in college, where else can people get it?

    Thanksgiving break isn’t the only disappointment for students in need of time off. According to the article “”Jewish holidays, classes clash”” in the Sept. 30, 2008 issue of the Daily Wildcat, about 3,600 Jewish students were faced with the choice of observing Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and attending their regularly scheduled classes around the beginning of the semester. Many professors scheduled midterms around that time, so students had to either rush to get their work done early or ask for a rescheduled exam.

    I ran into a similar problem two years ago at Easter. Spring break fell a few weeks before Easter Sunday, and anyone who flies to another destination for the holiday needs Monday as a traveling day. One of my professors decided at his own accord that he would not excuse my Monday absence, even though the university states that a religious holiday observance is a legitimate excuse for class absence. What my old instructor did was unfair, but it’s even worse that students have to fight for their necessary breaks.

    A 2007 edition of Social Work Today magazine revealed unsettling information about college students suffering from unhappiness and depression, both of which often result from school pressures. “”I think this emphasis on self-perfection that our society has really contributes to depression in college students,”” says Tom Morson of the psychological and counseling services at the University of Michigan. “”Many students have an ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality, not only about academics but also physical attractiveness and wealth. Depression has always been the No. 1 problem here.””

    In 2005, The American College Health Association collected troubling data from their National College Health Assessment. The top five impediments to academic performance are stress, colds/flus/sore throats, sleep difficulties, concern for family or friends and depression/anxiety disorders. If the top four reasons have remained unchanged since the 2000 assessment, why are students getting even more stressed out and sick from their responsibilities? More needs to be done to eliminate these problems from students’ lives, and an occasional flexible academic curriculum would probably help restore the health of students. Life isn’t easy in the long run, but the stresses on students today have the power to end lives entirely, and it has happened too many times already.

    – Laura Donovan is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at

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