Looming start of post-secondary studies puts young people under STRESS


By Scott Best

No matter what your age or the kind of school and work experiences you’ve had, stress has probably been a part of your life at some point. For students, stress can come from many sources — planning for post-secondary education, parents’ expectations, school projects, grades or exams, just to name a few. However, stress is not impossible to conquer.

Last spring, education and career-planning website, myblueprint.ca, surveyed over 500 middle and high school students to find their key sources of stress. They published the results in the MyBluePrint Canadian Student Stress Index.

“What we found is 81 per cent of students said they had a moderate to high amount of stress resulting from planning for post-secondary,” says Gil Silberstein, president and co-founder of myBlueprint. “We did believe that ‘teens thinking about their future’ would be a number one stressor, and it was interesting to have that verified.”

Carmela Giardini, head of guidance and counseling for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, says students feel this kind of anxiety because they feel they’re facing an uncertain future. “They’re thinking in terms of, What’s out there, what’s the post-secondary experience going to be like?  Will I get in? Will my marks be good enough to get in? Will I like it when I’m there? To some degree it’s the unknown that’s potentially stressful to them.”

Giardini adds the expectations students place on themselves and the need to have the approval of parents, teachers and peers can also be a stressor in their lives.

When asked about their top source of pressure, 75 per cent of the students surveyed on myblueprint.ca cited their own expectations. Parents’/guardians’ expectations came in at 71 per cent, teachers at 66 per cent, friends at 39 per cent and siblings at 22 per cent.

The survey was open to all users of myblueprint.ca across Canada, and the sample was split equally between male and female students.

Myblueprint.ca is an education and career planning website that can be customized to help individual students plan for their future. Students can set goals, plan their courses interactively, track their progress towards graduation, and browse post-secondary options across Canada that match their interests and high school courses.

The survey also asked students  about digital devices and social networking. It found only 43 per cent of teen participants saw the rapid growth of communication channels as a source of pressure, ranking lower than family, post-secondary education and exams.

“Those that think [communication tools] make their lives less stressful are learning to use them judiciously and be in control of them, rather than have the tools control them,” says Giardini. “The more control we have over something, the better able we are in handling the stress.”

Giardini says identifying where stress is coming from, breaking problems and goals down into bite-sized pieces and creating a calendar to help manage deadlines are all effective ways of coping with stress.

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