Annenberg Radio

USC student burnout is real as finals season approaches

With finals just around the corner and semester projects wrapping up, students are feeling the pressure more than ever. Many are burning out and trying to find ways to keep up as the fall term draws to a close.

In compliance with L.A. county’s indoor masking mandate, students at the University of Southern California wear face masks while studying at Wallis Annenberg Hall, Los Angeles, CA, on September 9, 2021. (Julia Zara)

With finals just around the corner and semester projects wrapping up, students are feeling the pressure more than ever. Many are burning out and trying to find ways to keep up as the fall term draws to a close. Jeremy Lindenfeld has the story.

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I am tired.

Not the regular, stayed-up-too-late-watching-Youtube-videos tired, it’s a kind that only comes at the end of the semester when the culmination of months of work piles onto itself and deadlines seem to be barreling down at twice their usual speed.

I’m privileged to be able to pursue higher education at USC. People have it much worse than I do, but even still, I am burnt out.

And I’m not alone.

End-of-semester burnout is common. Students work themselves to the point of exhaustion or even illness to keep up with the demands of higher education. Without the proper resources to combat it, many are left struggling to cope, especially during the COVID era.

KYLE VOONG: It’s just a lot of work after work after work with it. It can be really overwhelming, and it feels like there isn’t time to really breathe with it all.

That’s Kyle Voong, a pre-med student at USC. He’s says he’s not too burnt out, but his friends haven’t been so lucky.

VOONG: All the stress of all the work that piles up, it gets a lot, and yeah, I have witnessed it a lot in those around me.

The stresses of student life are countless. Assignments, social lives, self-discovery, and romantic relationships all weigh on young minds. But in recent years, rates of burnout have skyrocketed due to COVID-19.

An Ohio State survey found that 71% of students reported feeling burnt out in 2021. That number was just 40% last year.

Mental health experts believe part of the added stress comes from the transition back to in-person learning. After a year of at-home school, many students like Sasha Hussain are trying to maneuver that shift.

SASHA HUSSAIN: This semester was really hard to adjust for me, I’m a sophomore, so last year I wasn’t on campus so moving onto campus was a new experience for me.

Student burnout usually reaches its peak at this point in the semester. Hygiene and self-care can be pushed aside to make room for cramming, and that often leads to some pretty bad outcomes.

HUSSAIN: I’ve seen personally people not taking priority in sleep and that I think can negatively affect a person’s mental health.

Other students like Abe Luedtke have had to turn to some energizing assistance to get through the grind.

ABE LUEDTKE: I’m just pushing toward the end, feeling a little bit burnt out, but hey, lots of Red Bulls are pushing me through.

It’s not all energy drinks though. Some students also try to find healthier stress-relieving outlets.

LUEDTKE: Honestly, exercise is one of them. Even just playing music, even though that’s my major, that can be really relaxing.

Though some have found ways of dealing with stress, the need for structural change remains. USC students like Akilah Perry feel like the university has not done enough to help students experiencing burnout.

AKILAH PERRY: There’s not really anything for us out there for us to reach out to or go to get that help.

Some students feel like without easily available and widely publicized programs, the university can do better.

As for me, I still haven’t found a good way to cope and I know many of you haven’t either. Its difficult to juggle so many responsibilities, so if you’re starting to feel burnt out, try talking to some friends or getting some rest.

Also, professional help is available. You’re going to get through this.