Photo by Hadley Biggs
Junior Erin Miller leans over her laptop, typing a paper that was due 15 minutes ago. It is 11 p.m. This is the first time she has had time to work on homework all day. She was in class in the morning and then had work in the Convocation office following her class. In the afternoon, she had to work on the schedule for the next Veritas meeting. She then had class until 10 p.m.
She is not the only one finding herself overwhelmed with commitments in college.
“Students are getting over-involved without having the opportunity to step back and see if they are over-involved,” said Connie Horton, vice president of Student Affairs at Pepperdine University.
On average, students are involved in three activities outside of school, according to a Pepp Post poll of 53 students.
There are a number of factors that contribute to students becoming overcommitted.
“There is an increasing feeling of the fear of missing out,” President Jim Gash said. “Students will go choose to stay up late instead of going to bed because people are doing stuff. Students will also choose to get up early instead of sleeping in because people are doing stuff.”
According to the Pepp Post poll, 41 of the 53 students said they were overwhelmed by all of their commitments.
Chart from Pepp Post poll
“For college students who are generally overcommitted individuals, sometimes it can feel like every day’s a fight to stay afloat,” alumnus Omar Murphy wrote in a Graphic op-ed.
Sociological Reason Behind Overcommitment
Robin Perrin, a professor of Sociology at Pepperdine, weighed in on the sociological reason behind students being involved in various activities on campus.
“The reason behind this is the development of the working world,” Perrin said. “Because college is becoming more common, students need to find ways to make themselves marketable and unique to the working world. That is why they feel the need to be overcommitted.”
Photo by Hadley Biggs
Not all students said they feel this pressure to become overcommitted.
“When I came in freshman year, I did my best not to get involved in a lot of organizations,” junior Jessica Stomberg said. “I did not want to spread myself too thin, and I still don’t want to spread myself too thin.”
On Campus Resources
Pepperdine has a number of resources to help students who are feeling overwhelmed.
One of the resources is the Counseling Center, located in the Student Assistance Center (SAC), above the CCB.
“Students come to the Counseling Center for a variety of concerns including homesickness, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, eating concerns and addictive behaviors,” according to the Counseling Center’s website.
The Student Wellness Advisory Board (S.W.A.B.) is another resource for students to turn to when feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
S.W.A.B. is an on-campus club committed to the wellness of students at Pepperdine.
“S.W.A.B. just completed mental health week, and we are currently tabeling for suicide prevention,” sophomore Alie Libman said. “If a student is feeling overwhelmed, we tell students to do what they need to do to make them feel less stressed. This can be hanging out with friends, reading, watching Netflix or anything else.”
“S.W.A.B. has many different ways for students to get plugged in to help them with their wellbeing,” First Lady of Pepperdine Joline Gash said. “Students can come pet therapy puppies when we have them on campus or come to our weekly art club meetings.”
Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress. For some people, it is diving into school work or hanging out with friends.
“When I feel stressed I go and workout,” junior Kim Brooking said. “I recommend people do what makes them happy. If they are happy being in seven clubs, great! When they start to feel unhappy, that is when someone should reevaluate.”
Jim Gash said he agreed that students should figure out ways to handle stress due to overcommitment.
“When you are falling asleep in class, that is your body’s way of telling you that you are working too hard,” Jim Gash said. “Students need to pay attention to what their body is telling them.”
Sleep deprivation leaves people at an increased risk for mental health issues like anxiety and depression. It can also cause an increased mood swings and a number of other factors like stroke and heart disease, according to Colombia Neurology’s website.
“The biggest way overcommitment impacts a student is via sleep deprivation,” Horton said. “When things get busy, unfortunately the first thing to go is sleep. Sleep deprivation is linked to a number of mental health issues.”
“Even though I do not feel I have taken on too much, I do get overwhelmed from time to time,” senior Alaina Sanchez said. “This causes me to get too in my head and makes me unable to do any work. It makes me shut down.”
Looking Toward the Future
In his inaugural address, Gash said mental health is a crisis. He committed to creating a resilience and strength program that would help Pepperdine students deal with anxiety and depression.
This program is called RISE, or the Pepperdine Resilience-Informed Skills Education (RISE) Program. It plans to help students develop resilience skills and how to help themselves and their peers in times of troubles, according to its website.
For now, students can attend events with S.W.A.B. or go to the Counseling Center to help them with the stress of their commitments.
Email Hadley Biggs: firstname.lastname@example.org