- Over 4 in 5 college seniors have experienced burnout during their undergraduate experience, marked by chronic exhaustionl and lack of motivation, according to a new survey from early career platform Handshake.
- More than one-quarter of respondents, 29%, said they frequently felt burnt out during their undergraduate career. That’s compared to 51% of seniors who reported being burnt out sometimes and 16% who said they felt that way rarely.
- The class of 2024 expects to carry those feelings into their early careers. A large majority of respondents, 80%, said they’re worried about burnout once they enter their professions.
The class of 2024 largely began college during the pandemic’s early days, meaning the beginning of their undergraduate career was marked by social isolation, virtual learning and economic uncertainty. During that period, many college students reported worsening mental health.
“You’re looking at a generation and a class of students that, quite frankly, have been through the wringer,” said Christine Cruzvergara, chief education strategy officer at Handshake. “They’ve had to study from home, they’ve watched some of their loved ones pass away. The pandemic was a really big defining moment in their life.”
Recent polls show those trends have continued even as pandemic-era restrictions have eased.
A May survey from College Pulse and Inside Higher Ed found 56% of college students experienced chronic stress. Students with disabilities and mental health conditions reported even higher levels of chronic stress.
These issues can drive students to leave college. Around 2 in 5 students considered stopping out of college in 2022 within a six-month period, up from 37% the year before, according to a recent survey from the Lumina Foundation and Gallup. Students cited emotional stress and mental health as the top reasons for possibly leaving higher education.
College debt is also weighing heavily on students’ minds, according to the new Handshake poll.
More than half of college seniors expect to have student loan debt when they graduate next year, it found. And more than two-thirds of respondents, 69%, believe their debt will impact which jobs they consider after getting their diploma.
As a result, students might forgo careers in lower paying industries because they feel pressured to earn enough to cover their loan payments, plus the cost of living, Cruzvergara said. For some students, that might mean delaying what they’re really interested in doing.
“As much as I would love to choose a job based on passion and work life balance, I do not think that will be possible due to loans and finances,” one college senior said in the survey.
To help with this issue, colleges should ensure they have strong career centers that reach all students.
“The process of getting a job is not intuitive,” Cruzvergara said. “Students need tips and advice, and they need to be taught and educated on how to go through that process. The earlier they start to learn that, the easier it will become through repetition.”
The Biden administration has been trying to ease student loan burdens. The U.S. Department of Education recently rolled out a new income-driven repayment program called the SAVE Plan.
It lowers the share of discretionary income that borrowers need to pay each month for their student loans from 10% to 5%. It also raises the income threshold borrowers must meet before they’re expected to make payments, opening the way for many borrowers to pay nothing.