Study Suggests That University Isn't As Much Fun As It Used To Be

University Isn't As Much Fun As It Used To Be

I might be showing my age a little, but when I was growing up, the image of the typical student was not a million miles from that portrayed in the Rik Mayall comedy, The Young Ones. The comedy featured four undergraduates at Scumbag College. They’d usually engage in lots of anarchic revelry, but precious little study. Despite the lack of study, they did appear on University Challenge though.

The image is somewhat at odds with the modern student, however, at least one painted by the annual survey of freshman conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.  It found that the typical student these days is likely to spend half as much time socialising with friends as their peers in 1987, when the survey was first conducted.

The modern student was typified by 18 year old Isabella Galeazi, who manages to have a musical production internship, a part time job at McDonalds, as well as her full-time course at California State University to juggle.

My parents are always saying, ’When they were in school, when they were in school,’ but I can show them my math homework and they have no clue how to do it," she said recently. "The work load is a lot heavier and the work is a lot harder. There is so much pressure to do well in high school or otherwise you won’t get into college and if you don’t do well in college you won’t get a job.

No Time For Fun at University

The results suggest that modern students are under an increasing amount of strain, both financially and academically, leaving them less time to have fun than previous generations.

The declines we have seen in time spent partying and the frequency of alcohol use in high school and the increases we have seen in the number of college applications students are submitting and their reporting feeling overwhelmed are all signs students are internalizing this message that they need to take the last year of high school seriously,the researchers say.

The survey revealed that around 40 percent of students spent less than five hours per week socialising with friends. This was over twice the level recorded in 1987. This was reflected in the figures for partying, which had dropped from 35 percent in 1987 to just 9 percent last year.

This lack of fun was reflected in the emotional health of modern students, which seemed much worse than their 1987 peers.  Some 12 percent of respondents rated their emotional health as below average, compared to just 3.5 percent in 1985.

The authors believe the results reflect a requirement for greater investment in the emotional wellbeing of modern students.  They reveal that there has been a 20 percent rise in students with anxiety and depression in the last three years, with many also reporting a range of stress related illnesses, ranging from headaches to insomnia.

There is a greater expectation that they need to succeed and do extremely well from the get-go at the same time they are dealing with the regular transitional issues of leaving home and adapting to the student environment," they say. "The pressure that starts in high school about ’What is your SAT score? What is your GPA? What are you going to study?’ is so different from 1985.

Can you relate to the statistics?  If you were recently at university yourself, how did you find the experience? Let me know in the comments below.

CIRP Freshman Survey