When you imagine college, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? For many, it’s hanging out in dorms over pizza and crazy weekend parties, with a sprinkling of homework and lectures. Just think about it: even TV shows and songs on the radio portray college students to live lives of pure social bliss. Well, you might surprised to learn that’s hardly the reality.
According to the Higher Education Research Institute’s 49th annual American Freshman study, U.S. college students surveyed are more career-focused than ever. Partying is not as frequent as one would think, and socializing also decreased, compared to previous generations of college students. Surveying 153,000 first-year students attending four-year colleges and universities, the study looked into their lives and observed both their high school lifestyles and early college experiences. What they found was an education-focused group, with the largest decrease in reported cigarette and alcohol use in 30 years.
Actually, just last year, more than 41% of students reported that they were not involved in partying whatsoever. Also surprising is that only 18% of college students reported to socialize more than 16 hours per week (which would equate to an average of two hours and 17 minutes per day). This is a 20% decline from the same study in 1987.
Researchers also found another large decline: a drop from 36% of students down to only 9% who reported partying six or more hours each week. What may not come as a surprise is that students’ self-reported emotional health is experiencing a downfall as well, with a low of 50.7%. (The percentage of students feeling “frequently depressed” rose 3.4 points as well, up to 9.5%.)
Sure, college isn’t supposed to be all about social stuff . . . but were students always so focused on their academics? To find out, the study also observed students’ study habits from high school. The results indicated that about half of today’s college freshmen spent six or more hours each week studying while in high school, a 16% increase from college freshmen who were studied 10 years ago. And although these students are only in their first year of college, they are already looking down the road toward graduate school, with 44% of students planning to obtain a master’s degree after they graduate college. This is a 16% increase from the same study in 1974.
The reason for the increased educational focus compared to previous generations of college students could be due to a number of situations, but Kevin Eagan, Director of UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program, believes it could be a result of students’ ideas about the job market, which has been thought of as highly competitive in recent years. With the economy still recovering, the heavy focus on landing a good job makes sense. Eighty-two percent of studied freshmen agree, believing that being financially well off is key to a successful future. Just remember: that success shouldn’t come at the price of your sanity.
Struggling to find a balance in your schoolwork and social life? Check out our advice for making it work.