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Anxiety on the rise in college students: an interview with Katharine Brooks, Ed.D

By Nikki Moylan

Katharine Brooks, Ed.D.


College students today are under immense amounts of pressure, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the American College Health Association which found that almost 16% of those interviewed had been diagnosed with, or treated for, anxiety.

So many things are common factors that contribute to anxiety, like being able to handle classes, meeting new friends, and also trying to figure out your place in the world.

This week I interviewed Katharine Brooks, who has worked over 30 years with college students in various roles ranging from professor, counselor, career counselor and adviser for students with disabilities. She is also the author of recently revised “You Majored in What? Designing Your Path From College To Career.” The book is more of a self-help guide for students in the liberal arts majors who don’t always have a concrete path

She says writing the book is ironic because “It’s supposed to ease the fear that can come with the job search.”

Brooks also says “College students are going through a lot of changes.  There is the stress of getting into college, then the stress of leaving home (and friends and family) to attend a new school, the stress of the difficult college-level courses, the desire to “fit in” — and the fear that you won’t. For some students, the transition is easy and smooth; for others, the path has lots of challenges.  And then, of course, there is the stress of what to do after graduation.”


Anxiety is both an internal and external issue, as it can be in your genetic makeup or personality and also outside factors.

Social media also plays a role in adding to anxiety and stress. Sites like Instagram and Facebook can fuel insecurities and make you compare your life to your friends.

What mental disorders can seriously affect those at work or in college?

“It’s not uncommon for anxiety to join up with depression.  The two emotions often feed on each other, which can make it particularly hard for students to keep with coursework, or for adults to succeed at work.  If you’re feeling all charged up but at the same time can’t focus or get going, chances are you’re dealing with both depression and anxiety.  It’s like trying to drive a revving car engine when you’re in park,” Brooks says.

Who should people talk to if they need help in their workplace?

Brooks advises workers to try the EAP program managed by the Human Resources department. Programs offered by insurance programs should also be checked out. Other ways to find help is to read, keeping a journal, or finding ways to stay active.

How anxiety can make a person feel.


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  1. It’s good to know that anxiety amongst college students is a common phenomenon, not only because we now can act on this and try to make the situation better for students, but also because it’s a comforting feeling to know that you are not alone and the only one who is dealing with this.

    I was wondering while reading this if this was truly just a more recent thing, or if other, oder generations had to deal with this, too.
    Maybe they had, and depression and anxiety are just not that big of a taboo to talk about anymore? Maybe we now have more research that can help to explain to people why they feel the way they feel?
    Or maybe these circumstances are unique to millennials. If that is the case, I would not only name social media as a cause but also the economy and the fact that todays youth is expected to find jobs with tools that are very out of date and do not fit the jobmarket we have today.

  2. It is incredible the lack of empathy, interest and, consequently, research by the pressures that the students suffer during all this transition.

    A few years ago, as part of a university project, I conducted a survey among my fellow students about their general college experience, socialization difficulties, homesickness, and even comparability of grades and how they affected them in this new stage .

    The results were alarmingly sad, with quite a few markers of depression, however, in Latino culture (I am from Mexico) there is no real concern for mental health and well-being, it all boils down to productivity and the answer was “I’m just a little Pressed / nervous about the exams ” We have teenagers and young adults committing suicide because they failed to enter a certain university or not get certain grades. It’s absolutely crazy.

    What kind of measures can we take, a course or a new class directly, to prepare these young people to better manage the pressures during this transition?

  3. This article holds a statistic that I am able to observe as a present undergraduate student. Anxiety towards friendships and classes have been a constant with my own friends and classmates, as well impacting myself personally. It’s intimidating to come into a new school whether fresh out of a private or public high school college is an entirely different playing field. Friendships require more effort due to the fact that sometimes a student’s friends may not share the same classes, having both people work around various schedules. Additionally, these schedules can include a variety of activities not limited to classes but work and social life activities. It’s wonderful that this issue is being acknowledged, students prepared for coping with this anxiety can prepare themselves to put in the extra effort and take some time to say, “It’s okay, I’m going to be okay,” while going into their freshman year.

    My questions to further research this topic would be focusing on the causes of anxiety in prospective high school students and how to better prepare them for the stresses they may face in a university. I’m wondering also what would help students that are feeling the stress of college, and focusing on expanding some self-care methods.

  4. I can relate to this article very well. As a transitioning student into college, anxiety is very real. As with anything in life, new things can be scary, especially with predisposed disorders. Not everybody is made for the cookie cutter system, and college can be reflected differently by anybody you ask. My questions are, if we spend all the money to go to college, shouldn’t we have a say in our learning experience? What works best, and suits our needs? I’m sure that could be worked into budgets.

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Anxiety on the rise in college students: an interview with Katharine Brooks, Ed.D