Although junior Nikki Kalhori hasn’t suffered a stress-induced nightmare in two weeks, she fears her packed schedule could lead to a return of the restless nights that haunted her last year.
“I would just not want to go to sleep, because I’m just gonna have a nightmare,” she remembered.
Students like Kalhori are so ready to re-engage with campus life that they are focused on staying involved first and putting their well-being second.
But why are students piling more onto their already busy schedules?
They’re feeling mid-pandemic FOMO, or the “fear of missing out.”
During quarantine, many sat at home brainstorming a bucket list of all the things they wanted to do once the pandemic was over. For those 12 months, they lost out on both social and financial opportunities.
Candice Yacono, adjunct English faculty member, said that the endemic desire to be back on campus is leading to overloaded schedules in an effort to make up for lost time.
“You’re only an undergrad once, so when you lose part of that window to a national crisis, it’s understandable to want to compensate for 18 ‘lost’ months of that experience,” she said.
According to a study conducted by the United States Department of Education, the number of students experiencing financial insecurity and mental health problems grew significantly larger in the 2020-21 school year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics have found that colleges and universities cut around 650,000 jobs, including student on-campus jobs, from March to December 2020.
There are only four years of college, and now that students have missed out on a year, they’re motivated to engage in everything they have been waiting to do.
Chapman isn’t the only university that’s swarmed with overwhelmed students. On Twitter, professors from different universities and colleges are noticing how their students are exhausting themselves and suffering burnout.
Kalhori, a junior psychology major, is currently taking six classes, participating in extracurriculars, running her small business, and is also considering an on-campus job.
“I love being really involved, but I’m also a little bit nervous that I’m going to be overwhelmed with all my stuff,” she said.
While at home last year, Grace Chapman, a junior psychology major, was easily able to maintain a job and balance school.
Now, she’s struggling with time management. Around her classes, she works at a small boutique.
“It’s pretty much a 180 flip,” Chapman said. “Having days scheduled where I have to go to work in person is definitely good for building a routine, but also it’s so much more overwhelming.”
Maddie Wright, a junior integrated educational studies major, agrees. She became acclimated to juggling multiple tasks from her computer at home, but is finding it difficult to keep up her schedule in person.
“It’s a lot easier to balance everything when you’re in a safe environment, and so coming back to school, I overextended myself into a lot of responsibilities that were easier to do online,” she said.
Wright has returned to campus with a sense of urgency, holding leadership positions in three different clubs and looking for an on-campus job. Consequently, she’s swamped and says she often feels mentally unstable.
“Just delegating the time, understanding that sometimes you just have to put yourself first, and things can wait, and if you have to let someone down, let them down,” she said.
As her priorities have shifted, Wright even dropped one of her classes in order to attend her club meetings on Tuesday nights.
“There’s so much, and it feels like there’s not enough hours in the day,” she said.
Wright isn’t the only student who is changing their focus. According to Yacono, some of her students have asked to participate in club activities during class time, a request she had never experienced before this year.
“I think that perhaps extracurriculars have more prominence in people’s minds now, after a year and a half of virtual meetups,” she said.
Robin Borough, director of talent acquisition, has been sorting through a substantial amount of on-campus job applications, seeing first-hand that students are eager to be back on campus.
“In the beginning of the year, it’s a mad dash, where a student might have applied to 10 or 20 things and they didn’t hear back,” she said. “If they’re just thinking about looking for a job now, it’s actually a little bit easier. I think that their resume will get noticed quicker.”
Although Borough encourages students to apply for these jobs, she emphasizes that students should focus on their studies first during this strenuous transition back to campus.
“The challenge is just coming back into a physical environment,” she said. “It is taking students longer to adjust.”
Even though students are back at school, the fear that life could be shut down once again lingers. While adding more to their jam-packed schedules, students are crossing their fingers that the clock won’t run out of time, even at the cost of their mental stability.
“If you’re not missing out on school or work, you’re missing out on taking care of yourself,” Wright said.
Alexandra Davenport is a junior majoring in journalism. Her appreciation for storytelling began early in her life and she has developed her passion for journalism in college.