College Students are More Overwhelmed Than Ever, But You Can Help


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This post was updated to bring you the most current tips and information in October 2020.

College health counselors are seeing a drastic rise in mental health disorders in their students. Over the course of 2019, the American College Health Association found that 87% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do and 66% felt overwhelming anxiety. According to the study, one in three students was diagnosed or treated by a professional for at least one mental health disorder.

While these issues are sending more students to health counselors, they aren’t the only ones who can help students rise above their frustrations. As a career counselor, you can help by preparing students for the overwhelming job search.

1. Acknowledge their frustrations

Most students will be just fine. They’ll eventually graduate, find their footing, get a job, and forget how unbearable they felt the job search was. 

However, at this moment, they have the rest of their lives ahead of them, and it’s terrifying. Nothing is happening as quickly as they want, making them feel stagnant during a time when they should be moving forward. 

Let your students know they have a place to go where they can voice those anxieties without judgment. Simply saying, “It’ll be OK” and moving on downplays their emotions and won’t help them overcome their struggles. Instead, let them know their frustrations are heard, understood, and validated by empathizing with them. 

Explain that these feelings are normal and that they’re not alone. From there, ask how they feel their job search timeline should look. Note what frustrations are stemming from unrealistic expectations. Show them they’re not behind or slow, and that this is the natural process. 

2. Take them step-by-step

Many employers are working diligently on shortening their time to hire. However, the instant gratification students have become accustomed isn’t part of the job search — yet. 

When it comes to students who are easily frustrated by the job search, a lack of instant gratification becomes a significant issue. They look at their goal list with one box to check: “get a job.” When this doesn’t happen immediately, they have trouble coping, get frustrated, and even become depressed. 

Start by giving your students smaller job search goals. As they accomplish each goal, they’ll receive the gratification they crave. This takes the pressure and focus off of the overarching goal of landing a job and gives them smaller, more productive ones to check off their list.  

Also, help them create their cover letters and resumes. If they need more experience, share a few volunteering and internship opportunities. Show them how each task will get them closer to their first ‘real’ job.

3. Put their electronic savviness to work

Technology is to blame for many students’ rising frustrations, so why not let it help solve the issue? Students are wizards when it comes to their devices, and their smartphones and tablets have even become a security blanket. 

Make a list of job search resources and tools to give students a sense of comfort and accomplishment. Tools like LiveCareer and Cover-Letter-Now will help them perfect their application documents outside of your office. 

Remember, instant gratification is something your students crave. Thanks to smartphones and social media sites, they tie their entire self-worth and confidence to immediate response. So, continue nurturing them and frequently complimenting their traits and skills.

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, LinkedIn.