Updated November 29, 2022

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 ... is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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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.

The source articles are as follows:

The 100 Happiest Colleges:

How 6 Colleges Help Students Cope With Finals Stress

Schools Take on Stress:

The 25 Healthiest Colleges in the US:

What Colleges are doing to address students' unprecedented levels of stress:

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:

#1 Claremont Mckenna College Claremont, CA
#2 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
#3 Stanford University Stanford, CA
#4 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
#5 Yale University New Haven, CT
#6 Bowdoin College Brunswick, ME
#7 Occidental College Los Angeles, CA
#8 Haverford College Haverford, PA
#9 Colorado College Colorado Springs, CO
#10 Brown University Providence, RI

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  1. Claremont Mckenna College

    Claremont, CA

    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.

  2. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    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.

  3. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    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.

  4. California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA

    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.

  5. Yale University

    New Haven, CT

    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.

  6. Bowdoin College

    Brunswick, ME

    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.

  7. Occidental College

    Los Angeles, CA

    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.

  8. Haverford College

    Haverford, PA

    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.

  9. Colorado College

    Colorado Springs, CO

    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.

  10. Brown University

    Providence, RI

    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!

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