Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria

Part 1 of 3: Today’s Post-Secondary School Student


o-MULTITASKING-facebookStudents entering college or university several decades ago lived a very different experience than today’s student: They used landlines, hand-wrote their essays and researched topics using only library books and encyclopedias. Today’s university student is a millennial, born between 1980 and 1994, and while this student benefits from smaller cellphones and Internet access, they embody a host of generation-specific difficulties when adapting to post-secondary education, most notably, mental health issues.

So what does today’s university and college student look like?

“Helicopter” Parents: The average student often comes from a very supportive familial unit, where parents are very involved with their child’s life, including their extra-curricular activities, academics and social calendar. Sometimes, this involvement leads to underdeveloped coping and problem-solving skills in children, because they learn that their parents want to protect them from difficulty or discomfort. This can result in university-aged students who have trouble managing stress and conflict when they experience the independent lifestyle of post-secondary education.

 Academic Pressures: Striving for individuality and well roundedness has become the goal for this generation, with a huge emphasis being placed on academic success. With this cultural pressure, a lack of consistency exists between school boards when it comes to grading and measurement of knowledge. Studies have found that students come into university or college with inflated high school grades, which can negatively affect self-esteem when entering post-secondary schooling where students are not earning the kind of grades they are used to.

Financial Stress: With the growing cultural expectation that you MUST have a degree in order to get a good job, many families cannot afford to put all of their post-secondary-bound children through school without help. Tuition rates are rising along with the cost of living, and many students rely on government funding to put themselves through school. And once students have graduated and have their degree in hand, they are left with monumental student debt and often limited job prospects.

Technology and Social Media savvy: Millennials are the most technologically connected of the generations, keeping in touch with friends and relatives all-too-easily through various social venues like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This constant barrage of information can lead to social anxiety and the idea that “everyone else is smarter, more successful, and has more friends than me”. With technology and mobile addiction on the rise, students are not developing vital interpersonal skills the way they have in the past, which can lead to feelings of social isolation – ironic when these are the same students with hundreds of Facebook Friends!

Today’s university and college student is bright, ambitious and well-connected and their unique challenges differ greatly from generations past. Part 2 of this series will discuss the need for change and implementation of more comprehensive support for this greatly underserviced demographic. With college and university student suicide rates on the rise in past years, mental health and mental illness need to be made a top priority. After reading this blog, do you notice any other characteristics that today’s post-secondary student embodies? I look forward to your comments below.


5 thoughts on “Part 1 of 3: Today’s Post-Secondary School Student

  1. Great Blog! You probably had an easy time writing this having experience from you and from me.

    Sent from my iPhone device

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 1:12 PM -0500 from Charles Benayon : charlesbenayon posted: “Students entering college or university several decades ago lived a very different experience than today’s student: They used landlines, hand-wrote their essays and researched topics using only library books and encyclopedias. Today’s university student i”

  2. I read your blog and it was very relevant! Good job.


  3. I totally agree with your comments. I teach in continuing studies and I can spot a daytime student as soon as I walk into the room. They stand out from everyone else. They are so focused on getting the highest mark possible and will argue and argue to try and wear me down. They are really funny, for example I had a millennium in my evening class and he yelled when was it break time and everyone else rolled their eyes because they wanted to leave early. I thanked him for reminding me and asked him to remind me each class when it was time for a break and he smiled. Every class he reminded me when it was time for a break. You think I was asking him to do something that wold change the world. I also find that many do not work well in groups and d not have the leadership skills to lead a group. They do bring a lot of technology skills and are able to conduct research but will also sit in class on their phones and/or laptops on facebook. As long as they do not distract the others I do not say anything.

  4. Pingback: Supporting Students in Times of Tragedy | Charles Benayon

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