I recently heard a comment from a friend that really concerned me. “I am too busy to be happy,” he told me. Troubled by this, I looked in to the root of his sentiment: the stress from school is getting to us.
The fact that so many students feel that they do not have time in their schedules for “happiness” is proof of the extremity of this educational crisis. Students are in a constant state of stress, whether it be from parental pressure, college acceptance concerns, or general fear of the future.
To gain insight into the mindset of the Milken student, I conducted an anonymous survey about school work, class levels, extracurriculars, and sleep. My goal was to understand how work in school is affecting students’ lives. The results of my survey: shocking.
The majority of the Milken student body is getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Considering that mental health experts believe that teenagers need 8-9 hours a night, this is not something to be proud of. A surprising 37% got less than 6 hours of sleep, and not one student answered that they got more than 8 hours a night.
Students blamed their lack of sleep on hours of homework, procrastination, and insomnia.
One student included, “I procrastinate because when I do my work it just makes me more anxious. I am worried I will do a bad job.”
Again and again I saw responses from students saying that they stay up late worrying.
“I have such bad insomnia now because of all the pressure I am under. Everything is too overwhelming. School literally keeps me up at night,” a student shared.
Because many students are so anxious about the quality of their work, the entire homework process takes them significantly longer than it should. This trend applied across the board. The majority of students answered that they were given about 3.5 hours of homework. This number represents how long doing their work, thoroughly, should take. In reality, the majority of students are only actually spending 2.5 hours on their homework. Shockingly, the homework process is most commonly taking at least 4 hours.
In response to an inquiry about why the process takes longer than the amount of time spent on doing the work, a student shared, “It is extremely hard to focus when we are carrying so much weight on our shoulders.”
The most extreme case I saw of this was in a student who said she is given 3 to 4 hours of homework a night, but only spends 30 minutes to an hour doing her work. Somehow, completing her homework takes her 7-8 hours. The student shared that often times she procrastinates until after 12 am. The pressure students feel is so intense it stops them from doing their homework at all.
This is the start of an extremely harmful cycle. Many students take on a “work hard, play hard” approach, staying out late on the weekends and participating in destructive behaviors as a form of escaping. Other students take the opposite approach, never going out after school and staying in on the weekends to work.
Students are even becoming physically unhealthy. A student shared with me that his burdens give him “a never ending headache.”
Of course there are students who have found a healthy balance and can manage their busy schedules, but the results from my survey have shown that this stable student does not represent the majority.
Our generation is seeing more and more cases of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. After talking to students and analyzing the results of this survey, it has become clear that this can be attributed to the burden of pressure students are under. As one student put it, “Who ever likes going to school? I like Milken, I really do. It is a good school. But the pressure I am under makes me not want to wake up for school in the mornings.”
The fear of failure and bad grades is not only affecting how we view our academic capabilities; it is detrimental to our senses of self worth and ruining our self-esteems.