There’s been a lot of talk about meltdowns on campus this semester, prompted by a student blogger for the Admissions Office, Lydia A. Krasilnikova ’14, who offered a moving account of dealing with the stress of being an MIT student in a post called “Meltdown.” It sparked a letter to the editor in the Tech by President Reif, who remarked on the outpouring of support the post received.
Recently, the Tech surveyed the student body about stress, and 3,191—about 29% of all students (35% of undergrads)—responded. The result is Under Pressure, a feature containing compelling—and interactive—infographics (you can filter results by a number of variables) as well as a list of supporting multimedia, such as videos, letters to the editor, a talk with the director of mental health at the Institute, profiles of student support groups, playlists for de-stressing, and more. A few of the survey results are highlighted below.
According to the editor’s note to Under Pressure, 52% of students have, at one point, felt like they don’t belong at the Institute. There’s a nice interview with Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill ’86 assuring students their admission to MIT was not a fluke.
The work that went into Under Pressure is impressive as is the MIT community’s support of this important topic. The Tech and the chancellor’s office will cosponsor a forum for students during IAP to discuss issues surrounding pressure and stress at MIT, and the Institute recently launched MIT Together, a portal to support resources for students.
Under Pressure Snapshot
Just a few of the findings are below, but you have to check out the interactive graphics, which break down stress by dorm, year, major, gender, and age; reveal how students split their time among sleep, work, and play as well as when they sleep; and show the single most stressful class by year or major. For freshmen, it’s 8.01 (physics, classical mechanics) and 7.012 (introductory biology). Sound familiar?
- Grad students living in Edgerton House spend the most hours per week doing homework on average: 50.12.
- Among undergrad dorms, McCormick works the hardest with 33.71 hours.
- Residents of Next House spend the least amount of time on average, 23.04 hours.
- The happiest residence is Baker House.
- On average, students have four close friends.
The following are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being not stressed at all and 7 being extremely stressed.
Courses with the highest levels of stress (5.3 or 5.4 on the scale)
- 4 (architecture)
- 17 (political science)
- 11 (urban studies and planning)
- 22 (nuclear science and engineering)
Courses with the lowest levels of stress (4 on the scale)
- 18 (mathematics)
- 24 (linguistics and philosophy)
- 15 (management)
Some of the most poignant parts of the survey were the comments generated when students were asked to share any stories or thoughts they had about pressure at MIT. Tech editors published some of the 500+ responses:
- “I don’t feel good when I’m over-committed and over-worked, but I don’t feel good about myself if I’m not like that.”
- “I don’t feel like I’m learning anymore. Instead, I feel like I’m living from p-set to p-set.”
- “MIT has done a wonderful job of discouraging competition among peers, but has not done anything about competition with one’s self.”
The editors said that themes emerged among the comments: feelings of insecurity, of not fitting in, and of concern about research, to name a few, but that a sense of optimism was present as well. Says the Tech, “Tying together the dozens of stories about how MIT can be hell was the thread of hope; MIT is a shared experience—we are all in this together….You might have a love-hate relationship with the Institute, but you are not alone.”
Alumni, add your voices. What advice do you have for stressed-out students?