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Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life; it can take a toll on students’ physical health, emotional wellbeing, and academic success unless they learn to manage it appropriately. College students experience stress related to changes in lifestyle, increased workload, new responsibilities, and interpersonal relationships.1 Extreme levels of stress can hinder work effectiveness and lead to poor academic performance and attrition.2 College students who experienced stressful life events also reported worse health outcomes and reduced quality of life.3 Introducing successful coping strategies may help students avoid the destructive consequences of excessive stress.


Key Facts

  • College students now report being more stressed-out than ever before.4
  • Stress is the number one reported impediment to academic performance.6
  • 55% of students, nationally, claimed their biggest stressor to be academic in nature.7
  • 6 in 10 college students report having felt so stressed they couldn’t get their work done on one or more occasions.8
  • Nationally, 53% of students report having felt so stressed they didn’t want to hang out with friends on one or more occasions.8
  • Many of the emotional and physical symptoms that occur commonly in the college population, such as headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and the inability to cope, can be attributed to or exacerbated by stress.9
  • Negative physical effects of stress include immune system suppression, which can increase susceptibility to physical illness and psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression.10
  • Students who engaged in meditation practices demonstrated significantly greater reductions in perceived stress than students who did not.11

Suggestions for Parents and Families

This page is intended to be a resource containing suggestions for what you can do to help decrease the negative consequences of stress on your student.

Familiarize yourself with the NYU academic calendar.  Make a note of times in the semester in which your student may need extra support, such as during midterm or final exams.  Send a care package or remind your student to engage in stress relief activities, especially at these critical times.

Encourage your student to take advantage of stress reduction opportunities within and outside of the university community. Techniques such as meditation,25 biofeedback,26 and mindfulness27 have been shown to reduce the negative consequences associated with stress among students. NYU offers a number of stress reduction opportunities within and outside of the university community. Visit the Stress Resource Guide for on-campus opportunities and resources to help students manage their stress.

Familiarize yourself with university academic support services and refer your student as appropriate. NYU offers several academic support services, such as the Academic Resource Center, the Writing Center, or the University Learning Center. Tutorial support can safeguard students from the consequences of stress.28 As a parent or family member, your willingness to speak openly and positively about supportive services could help eliminate perceived stigma or shame for some students needing help.

Advise your student to create a schedule in order to prioritize tasks. Students who see themselves as being in control of their time, a feature indicative of good time management, report experiencing less negative characteristics related to stress.29 Practice with time management can lead to better study habits, improved learning, and overall increased productivity.

Encourage your student to engage in self-care, such as healthy eating, regular exercise, and obtaining sufficient sleep.

Be an active listener. Lend an open ear when you student is feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Listen to what he or she says, as well as to what is not said (i.e., is there no mention of friends, social activities, etc?). Respect your student’s feelings even if you don't understand exactly what he/she is going through. This will encourage your student to start talking and serve as a source of comfort when he or she is feeling overwhelmed. If your student appears to be experiencing overwhelming stress, consider referring your students to the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 for additional support or speak to a counselor at the Student Health Center.

Be aware of, and understand that financial resources can be a source of stress for students. Should students be struggling financially, encourage them to engage with the Bursar, Financial Aid Office, and the NYU Money Management Resources page sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs. The Wasserman Center for Career Development can also be a great resource to assistant your student with obtaining a part-time job.


stress indicators


a) Negative impact on academic performance due to stress

  • Data Source: ACHA #45D5
  • Survey Question: Within the last 12 months, have any of the following affected your academic performance (stress)?
  • Definition: Proportion received lower-grade exam; received lower-grade course; received incomplete/dropped; significant disruption thesis

b) Experiencing more than average stress

  • Data Source: ACHA #37
  • Survey Question: Within the last 12 months, how would you rate the overall level of stress you have experienced?
  • Definition: proportion rating overall stress as more than average stress or tremendous stress

  1. Ross, S.E., Niebling, & B.C., Heckert, T.M. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 33, 312-317.
  2. Grace, T.W. (1997). Health problems of college students. Journal of American College Health, 45, 243-250.
  3. Damush, T.T., Hays, R.D., & DiMatto, M.R. (1997). Stressful life events and health-related quality of life in college students. Journal of College Student Development, 38, 181-190.
  4. Pryor, J.H., Hurtado, S., DeAngelo, L., Palucki Blake, L., & Tran, S. (2010). The American freshman: National norms fall 2010. The Higher Education Research Institute. Retrieved from http://heri.ucla.edu/pr-display.php?prQry=55
  5. American College Health Association. (2011). American College Health Association – National College Health Assessment 2011 NYU Data. Hanover, MD.
  6. American College Health Association. American College Association – National College Health Assessment 2010 National Data. Hanover, MD.
  7. Dusselier, L., Dunn, B., Yongyi W., Shelley II, M., & Whalen, D. (2005). Personal, health, academic, and environmental predictors of stress in residence halls. Journal of American College Health, 54(1), 15-24.
  8. MtvU, Jed Foundation, & The Associated Press. (2009). mtvU AP 2009 Economy, College Stress and Mental Health Poll. Retrieved from: http://www.halfofus.com/_media/_pr/may09_exec.pdf
  9. Pace, C.R., & Stern, G.G. (1958). An approach to the measurement of psychological characteristics of college environments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 49(5): 269-277.
  10. Quick, J.D., Horn, R.S., & Quick, J.C. (1987). Health consequences of stress. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 8( 2), 19 – 36.
  11. Oman, D., Shapiro, S.L., Thoresen, C.E., Plante, T.G., & Flinders, T. (2008). Meditation lowers stress and supports forgiveness among college students: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of American College Health, 56(5), 569-578.
  12. Dahlin, M., Joneborg, N. & Runeson, B. (2005). Stress and depression among medical students: A cross-sectional study. Medical Education, 260, 2521–2528.
  13. Sloboda, J. A. (1990). Combating examination stress among university students: Action research in an institutional context. British Journal of Guidance and Counseling, 18, 124-136.
  14. Campbell, R.L, & Svenson, L.W. (1992). Perceived level of stress among university undergraduate students in Edmonton, Canada. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 75, 552-554.
  15. Klainberg, M., Ewing, B., & Ryan, M. (2010). Reducing stress on a college campus. Journal of the New York State Nurses Association, 41(2), 4-7.
  16. Jokl, M.V. (1984). The psychological effects on man of air movement and the colour of his surroundings. Applied Ergonomics, 15(2), 119-126.
  17. Conners, D.A. (1983): The school environment: A link to understanding stress. Theory Into Practice, 22(1), 15-20.
  18. Welle, P. D. & Graf, H. M. (2011). Effective Lifestyle Habits and Coping Strategie s for Stress Tolerance among College Students. American Journal of Health Education, 42(2), 96-105.
  19. Lumley, M. A., & Provenzano, K. M. (2003). Stress management through written emotional disclosure improves academic perform ance among college students with physical symptoms. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(3), 641-649. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.95.3.641
  20. Fehring, R.J. (1983). Effects of biofeedback-aided relaxation on the psychological stress symptoms of college students. Nursing Research. 32(6), 362-6.
  21. Warnecke, E., Quinn, S., Ogden, K., Towle, N. & Nelson, M.R. A randomised controlled trial of the effects of mindfulness practice on medical student stress levels. Medical Education, 45(4), 381–388.
  22. Landow, M.V. (2006). Stress and mental health of college students. Nova Publishers.
  23. Gammon, J. & Morgan-Samuel, H. (2005). A study to ascertain the effect of structured student tutorial support on student stress, self-esteem and coping. Nurse Education in Practice, 5(3), 161-171.
  24. Dwyer, A.L. & Cummings, A.L. (2001). Stress, self-efficacy, social support, and coping strategies in university students. Canadian Journal of Counseling, 35(3).
  25. Dahlin, M., Joneborg, N. & Runeson, B. (2005) Stress and depression among medical students: A cross-sectional study. Medical Education, 260: 2521–2528.
  26. Fehring, R.J. (1983). Effects of biofeedback-aided relaxation on the psychological stress symptoms of college students. Nursing Research. 32(6): 362-6.
  27. Warnecke, E., Quinn, S., Ogden, K., Towle, N. & Nelson, M.R. A randomised controlled trial of the effects of mindfulness practice on medical student stress levels. Medical Education, 45(4): 381–388.
  28. Parenting a College Student. University of Michigan. Retrieved 1/5/11 from: http://parents.umich.edu/newstudent/parenting/youradult.php Gammon, J. & Morgan-Samuel, H. (2005). A study to ascertain the effect of structured student tutorial support on student stress, self-esteem and coping. Nurse Education in Practice, 5(3): 161-171.
  29. Macan, T. H., Shahani, C., Dipboye, R. L., & Phillips, A. P. (1990). College students' time management: Correlations with academic performance and stress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 760-768. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.4.760


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