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Negative Effects of Stress on a College Student


A college student has many problems to overcome to succeed academically. A student takes a lot more than just studying to be successful in college. He is confronted with several stressors, such as; time management, financial difficulties, deprived sleep, social activities, and others can pose danger to the academic performance of the student (Goldman 604). Stress is a generalized individual reaction to any threat to self-esteem. For instance, even an academically successful student may feel considerable stress if he experiences many deadlines approaching at the same time. This student may not pose doubts about his ability to meet the deadlines or do well in the classes, but may still feel the pressure of having to accomplish a lot of work in a short period. This paper dwells more on the effects of negative stress on a college student’s academic performance.

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Understanding Stress

A college student is particularly prone and susceptible to stress. Life as a college student can be very stressful (Goldman 604). Moderate stress challenges a student to work hard and keeps him or her learning and growing. For instance, preparation for a final exam can be a particularly stressful period for a student. Since the final exam has the highest percentage in the total score and the results are unpredictable, there will be enhanced levels of stress. This stress can push the student to work harder, longer, and learn more from the extra effort. This type of stress can be referred to as positive stress as it enhances an individual’s performance (Goldman 604).

Normally, the human body does not differentiate between positive stress and negative stress. Excitement and stress can both strain an individual’s body’s resources and depress the immune system (Oxington 85). Positive and negative stress differs in terms of duration and intensity. Positive stress lasts a short period of time and can rapidly motivate individuals. Negative stress, on the other hand, involves stressors that last too long, occur quite often, or are too strong and may result in individuals’ acquiring physical, behavioral, and physiological problems (Hirsch 380).

Effects of Negative Stress on A College Student’s Academic Performance

Negative stress can affect a student physically. A student under stress may suffer reduced physical coordination and control, sleeplessness, reduction in the ability to concentrate, and store information for recall. Negative stress can also affect a student mentally, such as; lowering his or her self-esteem, reducing interpersonal and academic effectiveness and creating a cycle of self-pity and self-doubt (McCormack 70). In case a student lacks coping skills, he or she often adopts irrational behaviors such as disruptive eating patterns, excessive alcohol consumption, increased smoking, bulling, isolation, harsh treatment of others, and other disruptive factors to run a way from the over-stressed situation albeit temporarily (Hirsch 377).

Again, there are a number of health-related stress factors that contribute to the academic performance of a college student. A college student’s academic performance depends on the amount of exercise, nutritional routines, and social support perceived (Goldman 604). Student’s academic performance can be influenced by too much or less exercise by the student (Trockel 125). Stress can make a student take time out of frequent study time to exercise and this pulls him away from his grades. It so happens in most colleges that students turn to be addicted to exercise, transforming a healthy behavior into one that is psychologically unhealthy. In a study by Trockel (2000), it was discovered, “that student who exercised seven or more hours a week obtained significantly lower grades than students who exercised six or fewer hours weekly or not at all” (p. 126). College students also face problems with nutrition, as they may face hardships getting time to prepare adequate meals. Majority of students joining college learn how to live on their own for the first time, and learning how to prepare meals can prove to be a challenge. Getting time to go shopping at the grocery every now and then can also be too demanding a task for students. This can cause prolonged stress among the students, thus influencing their needed concentration in studies (Oxington 85).

Majority of students spent a lot of time at work and less time studying. Being employed and at the same time still be a college student is a constant source of stress (Hammer 220). Students who work before attending studies are usually exhausted and can cause a poor attendance record and also accords students less time to study, leading to poor academic performance (Hammer 222).


Over-stressed student is vulnerable to extreme harm. This is well portrayed in Goldman’s report that being over-stressed can be harmful to students (Goldman 604). In the survey Goldman conducted on 167 students, the results were concluded from their self-perception profiles, including intellectual ability, scholastic competence, job competence, appearance, social acceptance, close friendships, finding humor in one’s life, and global self-worth (Goldman 604). The survey data deduced that stress caused negative effects on students’ self-perception. It is postulated that high pressure of college study, the conflicting role demands, and the rapid change in environments, all caused relative increases in levels of stress in college students. Without contradiction, increased levels of stress are harmful to the health of a college student both psychologically and physically (Goldman 604).

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Works Cited

Goldman, Cristin S., & Wong, Eugene E. Stress and College Student. Education Summer. 4 (1997):604

Hammer, B., Grigsby, T, & Woods, S. The Conflicting Demands of Work, Family, and School among Students at Urban University. The Journal of Psychology, 132 (1998):220-227

Hirsch, Ellis. Differences in Life stress and Reasons for Living among College Suicide Ideates and Non Ideates. College Student Journal, 30 (1996):377-384.

McCormack, Smith. Drinking in Stressful Situations: College Men under Pressure. College Student Journal, 30.1 (1996):65-77.

Oxington, K. Psychological stress. New York: Nova Publishers, 2005.

Trockel, Barnes. Health-Related Variables and Academic performance among First Year College Students: Implications for Sleep and Behaviors. Journal of American College Health 49 (2000):125-149.

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