Do you get stressed under pressure? You’re not alone. 77% of Americans experience physical stress symptoms on a regular basis. If you’re in that majority of people, you’re probably worrying that it might affect your ability to do well in college. It’s indeed a legitimate concern. The money that you’re spending on a degree is immense, and you don’t want it to go to waste.
But making sure that you reach your potential throughout your college years can be easy. And undue amounts of stress should be on no college curriculum. The first step in dealing with stress at college is realizing that, to a certain level, it’s inevitable. Exams, papers, and grades are designed to be challenging. So the way to get through college isn’t to banish stress altogether but to manage it with something that makes the stress productive.
If you’re worrying that you may not be able to manage this pressure on your own, that’s ok. Almost every college in America is now doing something to help students deal with the stresses that naturally come with taking degrees. Historically, colleges have been slow on the uptake of busting stress. Luckily, this is changing, as the 30 entries on this list show.
And if your college or college choices aren’t doing any of these stress-busting options, then there’s still a way for you to benefit from this list. One of the great things about colleges is that they’re always looking for suggestions. If you see something on this list that sounds like it would be beneficial to you and your fellow students, then see if your college can accommodate it. If they can’t do this, then look to your local community for something similar. If all else fails, you could start a stress-busting program of your own through a student club or organization.
Stress is nothing short of an epidemic. Psychologists have been conducting research on how to manage stress for well over 100 years. And colleges have been listening to what can be done. Unsurprisingly, the colleges which have created the best environments for their students to thrive have been boasting about it. To construct this list, we have consulted a range of works that have looked into stress-busting campuses.
Every article we’ve consulted is from a renowned publication. In many cases, journalists have visited the colleges and seen the positive effects for themselves. Our articles come in two forms: ones that are focusing on happiness at college and how it’s being reinforced, and ones that actively discuss stress alleviation programs. This has allowed us to create a diverse, inspiring and helpful resource.
But with something as abstract and diverse as stress, there is a range of solutions. What could be challenging and encouraging for one student can be exasperating and depressing for another. Therefore, we did more than merely research the above articles. We followed up this research by looking into extra information on the colleges’ websites and analyzing how the stress relieving work has impacted course grades and results. There is no one solution. But these colleges have all come up with effective, original and innovative answers.
We’ve organized this list based on a college’s ranking on our research material, which we have then cross-referenced through the University’s own discussion of its wellness services. Lastly, we’ve also checked third party sources and what they’re saying about the college’s stress levels.
And these are the colleges that are managing stress the best:
Claremont Mckenna College often tops polls of the happiest colleges in the US. And by creating a happy atmosphere for its students, they're busting stress. This form of stress relief works on the old adage, "prevention is better than cure." And it's true, students at this college can get through four years with hardly breaking a sweat over stress. However, if a student does experience undue stress, then there are a range of highly catered services on offer. For example, the college runs a meditation session solely for minority students.
It's not surprising to see Harvard on any top college list, no matter the subject. What is surprising, however, is Harvard's innovative approach to dealing with student stress. Their health team benefits from Harvard's leading medical school, which has published many studies on stress. And these studies show that instead of combatting stress, it can be better to embrace it. The college has a range of literature that focuses on harnessing the upsides of stress. This effort on the redirection of stress, instead of dispelling it, can give some students an edge. This approach may not work for everyone, but when it does, it has incredible results.
Stanford regularly tops studies of the happiest students in the USA. It's all because its health team embraces a culture of wellness that is instilled into all Stanford campuses. And beyond this guiding principle, there isn't one thing that Stanford is doing to keep its students happy. There are many. From their "Ears for Peers" student counselors to healthy body image programs, they've thought of everything! They even have a doctor who is in charge of life advice. Students can come to this doctor to discuss anything and receive knowledge on the appropriate actions to take.
Caltech has changed the very structure of its degrees to reduce stress. Their radical change involved restructuring the grading on student projects in the first two terms of their freshman year. Now, instead of being given a grade point average, the students are only given passes or fails. This eases the students into the rigors of college coursework and encourages an air of cooperation instead of competition. The result is that it allows the students to foster stronger relationships and support one another when the studying gets tough.
The students at Yale University benefit from one of the most innovative stress-busting solutions a college has ever conceived. Paradoxically, it's also one of the most common things known to humanity. It's farming! Yale's Sustainable Food Program is a place where students look after the earth, crops, animals and each other. It all came about in 2003 when student interns turned a neglected part of the college's gardens into a space for growing vegetables. It was a roaring success, and to this day, benefits participating students immensely.
Bowdoin College has an amazing peer health program. This program organizes students together, allowing them to work on any issues that they may be facing. This includes a stress relief cupcake decorating event. It also focuses on the greater areas that may be affecting student health. For example, every February the members hold a campus-wide alcohol screening. The peer health student members are well trained, with 40% of their time being dedicated to orientation. They spend the remaining time in weekly meetings with students, peer to peer sessions, programming and more.
Occidental makes the list of stress-busting colleges due to its dedication. While they haven't had a suicide on campus in many years, in 2014 they realized that depression and attempted suicide rates were high. Both the students and the faculty have taken it upon themselves to change this. One thing that students have done is create a Facebook page called Oxy Confessions, which allows students to anonymously submit facts about themselves. These confessions often include admissions of mental health states. Other students then comment on the anonymous posts, offering encouragement. And Occidental has put millions of dollars into its mental health services, offering therapy walk-in sessions, group sessions and more.
Haverford College has a series of classes that students can undertake called Cool Classes. These are made up of psychological stress-busting courses that are delivered through fun activities and interesting subject matter. For example, one course explores the modern scientific revolution from 1500 to 1750, and another looks at the role of food in religious beliefs and customs. The stress relief offered by the classes is unlike those found at other institutions because it allows students to learn about other cultures and historical subjects while relaxing them.
Colorado College ranks highly on happiness surveys, and an analysis of their stress managing services backs this up. Each week, they have Buddhist meditation sessions and mental health support groups meeting at their memorial chapel. Additionally, the college runs events designed to help senior students manage the stress of entering the workforce. These include LinkedIn workshops, personal finance advice, building communities and more. Lastly, their mental health team responds incredibly well to situations involving mass stress. One example is the Waldo Canyon Fire, which led to a massive loss of property and evacuations. In this crisis, the counseling center provided unbeatable care for its students, offering sessions and advice on very short notice.
Brown is heavily combating stress in its students. On top of its world-class health services, it offers something called Stress Less Days. These are a set of activities that are free for Brown University students to undertake. Activities include basketball, Zumba dance glow parties, chair massages and tropical smoothie making. The students also personally undertake an activity that is intended to cheer up fellow studiers. It's called the Naked Doughnut Run, and it's exactly as it sounds. Naked students run around the campus, handing out doughnuts. It's sure to bring some stress relief to students!
Boston College's wellness team is highly proactive! They've always got a health campaign running and are always improving. Some of their current campaigns that directly address stress include Let's Talk Stress, which organizes fun competitions, talks and other perks; and BChill, which has 10 core messages that it promotes to all students. The BChill messages are to BOrganized, BRested, BBalanced, BConnected, BActive, BCalm, BNourished, BGenerous, BAuthentic and BSilly. Students can access resources that allow them to achieve all 10 of these messages throughout the year.
When people's minds are engaged in a relaxing, creative way, they feel less stress. There is a range of activities that achieve this, and the University of Santa Barbara has picked a few that do this in the best possible manner. One is pottery. The college runs pottery classes for beginners, intermediates, and advanced learners. A similar program teaches students how to weave and loom fibers, enabling the students to make bags, scarves and much more! Both classes provide fun and rewarding activities completely unlinked to college coursework.
Dartmouth has fine mental health-related stress services, but its innovative technological solution is what puts the college on this list. The college created a unique app called StudentLife, which records students' levels of stress and other emotions. It then predicts the students' GPA based on this mental health assessment. Their initial test of this app showed incredibly accurate GPA predictions. This app is useful because many students will not seek out help and may not realize how strongly stress is affecting their wellbeing. However, an app that indicates stress to a mental health team can be incredibly useful and help get the student back on track. The next phase of StudentLife is still in development, but when it's ready it could be a gamechanger for colleges all over the world.
Another leader in alleviating stress is the University of Georgia. One area where the University of Georgia's health team is leading is with massage therapy. The benefits of massage therapy should be obvious to anyone who has ever received a massage. Each therapist tailors the session to the particular student's situation, massaging a particular area. Some of their techniques include Swedish relaxation massages, deep tissue massages, trigger points, aromatherapy and reiki energy healing. Massage therapy is surely something that all colleges should implement, as most students will benefit from a relaxing massage.
The University of Southern California is really taking stress management to heart. It has a rigorous amount of wellness events that run regularly throughout the year. They also encourage others to submit their own events to their wellness center, so that students are fully aware of the opportunities open to them. And last but not least, the USC marching band has its own way of encouraging students. On the night before the students' last exams, they play encouraging songs outside the library, motivating them to do well.
If you're looking for a college that is dedicated to helping anyone, then look no further than Berkeley. UC Berkeley has extensive destressing programs for all its students and more. For example, the college's Undocumented Student Program protects its students who are undocumented immigrants. They provide counseling, legal and financial aid to these students to ensure that they get through their college years. And for people not studying at the college, they offer a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in the Science of Happiness. Anyone can sign up here and spend 8 weeks learning all about the best ways to be happy.
The University of California, San Diego has implemented a range of helpful programs for its students. Their stress relief efforts are spearheaded by something called the Resources and Relaxation (R&R) squad. This consists of a group of students who are educated in calming other students and providing them with the information they need for things that are stressing them. Additionally, they provide free 4-5 minute neck, back, and shoulder rubs. The R&R Squad is based in a place called The Zone, which offers a range of wellness services, including yoga classes and DIY craft workshops.
The winters in Chicago are harsh. This can have the effect of making stress relief harder for students to access. After all, you can't get to your counseling session if there's a blizzard. That's why the University of Chicago has curated its own array of online stress-reducing resources for students to access any time. This includes a 10-minute meditation video and some mandala coloring pages. The college's physical mental health services are well catered for, though. Pet therapy and yoga are offered. They also encourage students to share their own stress-reducing resources for the benefit of all.
The majority of Arizona State University students have reported excessive levels of stress. Therefore, the university's health center is tackling it head-on. From initial wellness profiles and checklists for students to fill out, to spa nights designed to relax students, there is a range of options. The ASU health center, which additionally offers counseling and other resources, also waives its fees for any student who can't afford it, ensuring that everyone gets the help they need. On top of this, ASU has produced a series of wellness videos that teach students how to look after themselves while studying.
Like Harvard, Tufts University is channeling its stress in a productive way. Their stress pages are largely based around forming effective strategies. This is unsurprising for a college that has pioneered something called retrieval practice, which alleviates student worries by making them take practice tests. Their research has shown that this activity can protect the mind from the negative effects of stress and make it more effective at remembering information. This and other discoveries make Tufts one of the best locations for student stress alleviation on the globe.
Emory University, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is an institution that is combining traditional therapeutic techniques with technology. On top of counseling and group therapy, the university's psychological services are employing the use of a biofeedback clinic. This uses state of the art equipment to monitor a student's muscle tension levels, which then shows which therapeutic techniques are working on the individual. The result is a highly personalized and impactful form of stress relief, which indicates to both the student and counselor which techniques will be best for future implementation.
NYU has recognized the toll that stress is taking upon its students. In the last several years, they've been implementing a range of solutions to stress that actually works. This includes a really impactful mindfulness program, MindfulNYU. It's award-winning and teaches its students eastern philosophy techniques to combat stress. Every day, MindfulNYU has yoga classes, meditation sessions, mindful workshops and more. MindfulNYU has even teamed up with the app Calm College to give their students the ability to access stress-busting tools anywhere.
Wake Forest University took a bold step to reduce stress. In 2013, it gave itself a facelift! What that means is that the college's dean commissioned Dan Biederman to drastically modernize its quad. Biederman, who had previously revamped NYC's Bryant Park, turned the quad into a beautiful place that takes student relaxation to heart. Now students can engage in a number of fun activities on the quad, such as playing an outdoors piano, playing sports, reading books and much more. Many students present at the time of the revamp have attested to the refreshed quad's stress-busting and social atmosphere. The college is so proud, it even put up a webcam. Watch here and feel the stress melt away.
At Malacaster College, the staff, professors, and alumni have come up with an adorable and fun way to destress their students. When it's the height of finals, they bring their dogs onto campus and allow the students to hug and play with them. It's officially called the Petting Away Worry and Stress program, or PAWS for short. This gives the students a well-earned break before diving back into the difficult work of study. Dogs are also deployed during other times of stress. For example, the day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, PAWS members made dogs available for hugging and playing.
St. Andrews, the British college located in a remote corner of Scotland, has learned much about stress. They've even turned to the digital world to help their students who are experiencing stress to excessive levels. They offer all students a cognitive behavioral therapy based stress-busting module that is delivered entirely online. Students can access this resource at any time, and over seven segments the module encourages participants to de-stress themselves. It takes approximately 8 weeks and is a highly convenient solution for busy students.
You may be surprised to see MIT, one of the world's greatest colleges, rank so low on the list. However, it's a college that is in transition. It used to be known as a tough school, with harsh workloads. But in 2015, it suffered from four student suicides. Since this, it has put considerable work in improving student wellness. For example, it has lightened homework loads. Its mental health services have also put much more work into stress relief. The products of this work are a range of stress managing services, such as Koru Mindfulness. This is a class that students can participate in, which is built on evidence-based meditation techniques. These classes focus on developing emerging adult minds in the best possible way.
Oberlin College's students maintain a strong sense of friendly community. There are cooperatives on campus, which house and feed students who contribute. But as Oberlin's website states, "An Oberlin co-op isn't just a place to eat and live. It is a home that is defined, built and sustained by its members." And the students that participate in the co-ops forge strong bonds, helping them get through college without too much stress. Part of it is due to the shared beliefs that co-op members have. For example, the co-ops cater to the group members' dietary requirements, with vegan, vegetarian, Muslim and Jewish dietary co-ops existing. Getting through college with like-minded individuals working together really makes an impact on stress.
UCLA makes the most out of its sunny environment to combat stress. Its outdoor recreation centers are the best in the world, and not just in terms of colleges. They're equipped with an obstacle course, sports stadium, basketball courts, tennis center, aquatic center, adventure center, rock wall, swimming pools and more. That isn't even covering the indoor activities. It makes sense when you think about it. Exercise is a well-known stress and depression fighter, and so is sunlight. By combining the two, UCLA has an amazing stress fix.
The New Orleans based Tulane University has a number of programs in place that ensure students are happy and coping with stress. A leading workshop is called Prioritize YOU!, which gives students tips for sleep promotion, calm breathing, and environmental techniques. It even provides students with a self-care bag to use throughout their studies. For more specific stress-inducing situations, Tulane also runs a range of group therapy programs. They cover the transition into careers, life after a sexual assault, body image worry, grief and worry, self-compassion and more.
The wellness team at the University of North Dakota has done research and put it into an incredible action plan. They cater their stress-busting services around something called "7 Dimensions of Wellness." These seven dimensions are spiritual, social, occupational, environmental, intellectual, emotional and physical. Each student experiencing excessive stress symptoms is treated with the express intention of ensuring that each of the seven dimensions is being catered for. Once these are all in line, then students thrive. It may sound new agey, but really it's all based around science!
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