3 Reasons Why Your College Student is Exhausted

Les Newsom  |  October 10, 2014

Even though the memory of your time in college is dominated by care-free, responsibility-free, and, er, commonsense-free days…those undergraduate years can drain you dry on multiple levels. Why?

College is that time in which your physical body, wearied of self-inflicted abuse, says something to the effect of, “Yeah…I’m not letting you do that anymore.” Take, for instance, your living space in college: the dorm room. Who would have thought that a four-walled, cinder block, earth-toned cell, littered with the three-week-old laundry of an absentee roommate wouldn’t lend itself to human flourishing?

Note to self: sleep is a big deal. It doesn’t take too terribly much for a college student to shatter the delicate balance of nature that a good night’s sleep offers: road trips, study groups, “all-nighters,” whatever. Still living off what feels like the fountain of youth drawn from post-pubescent hormones, the body nears its limits if not given regular, peaceful, REM slumber.

And remember that chart you studied in sixth grade with the cute food clip art showing the basic food groups, how much you needed to consume every day, and basic nutritional information to achieve that Slim Goodbody Physique? Yeah, your student doesn’t remember a word of it. Gastro-intenstinal hari-kari...all the kids are doing it.

So yeah, "fatigue" might well be an appropriate Thanksgiving vacation posture for your college student.

Supress for a moment the roll-of-the-eyes as your college student unpacks their life-crushing ennui along with two months of dirty laundry. Ask her about her class schedule and you’ll find that the four to five distinct people groups (classes), united around nothing other than a driving need to jump through this teaching assistant’s hoops with little to no real sense of what those expectations are, can weary the mind fairly efficiently.

Not only that, but remember that this is likely the first time (and only time, for that matter) when your student daily interacts with as much raw diversity of social class, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. Now, take a quick scan of the cubicles in your office and see if you have anywhere near the variety of daily ambiguities your student is forced to contend with on an hourly basis.

Truthfully, most of us have forgotten how exhausting it is to wake up each day to cope with the emotional equivalent of the guy in charge of throwing a dinner parties for delegates at the United Nations. Where do you even start?

To be serious for a moment, your college student bears a lot of weight on their narrow shoulders in a given day. His professors range from the mind-numbingly boring research hound who clearly cares almost nothing for the annoyance of class lectures, all the way to wannabe iconoclast who delights in little else than lobbing intellectual grenades into your student’s beliefs. Sure, you can call this “education,” but just because you have achieved enough busyness to keep these questions at bay in your daily life, doesn’t mean that it’s any less hard on your student’s daily life.

Even more grave, college campuses are often first exposures to the ugliest of life-quaking pain. There is nothing unusual about a student who will in their tenure at college encounter the shattering pain of date rape, attend to a friend crippled by an eating disorder, or watch a friend on your dorm hall strengthen the shackles of substance abuse/addiction. Breakups, divorces, even the first loss of a loved one to death…the stakes feel so much higher in their time on the edge.

Weariness, though, is a divining rod. It shakily points us inward to ask the bigger questions of life: why am I here? Where is there meaning in life? Where is God in my pain? What am I making of myself? Yes, your student might self-medicate to numb the pointedness of these questions. The might dive into a third (yes, a THIRD) major to fortify themselves with busyness. 

Then again, they might get curious and seek out someone on campus to show them the truth: that God is still in control in the chaos, that we shouldn’t trust ourselves as much as we do, and that a Savior who said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…” is just what they need.