Many students experience a lack of motivation during their college careers, which can be attributed to academic burnout. A lack of motivation, fatigue, carelessness with responsibilities and poor sleeping are all symptoms of burnout.
Nicole Noble, assistant professor in the counselor education department, said burnout in students is the result of being overwhelmed by the responsibilities they engage in frequently, such as schoolwork, extracurricular activities and jobs.
“I think it’s lack of self-care and engaging in the necessary things to be fulfilled and have a sense of calm and peace,” Noble said. “It’s really important to attempt to have a balanced lifestyle and never put one thing ahead of one’s wellbeing.”
The recommended sleep time for college-aged students is eight to 10 hours. All-nighter study sessions a few times a week may be OK in the short term, but it is important to have a lifestyle that is healthy and sustainable, Noble said. Poor sleep can have a significant impact on memory retention, mood and overall health.
A good way to reduce the risk of feeling burnt out is for students to monitor their thoughts and feelings throughout the day, Noble said. While all students are susceptible to burnout, it is statistically more common in difficult majors like STEM and architecture.
“If we look at the number of students who have to participate in academic suspension or other programs overall, a lot of those students are from more strenuous majors,” Noble said. “That can be common because they have such high expectations, but it can happen to any student.”
During COVID-19, it is important for professors to be available and accommodating to students because many of them are taking on additional life stressors outside of school and work, Noble said.
Nathaniel Davis, a sophomore personal financial planning major from Allen, said he believes Tech has done a good job helping students during COVID-19, but he wishes there were more areas open to study on campus.
“Sometimes a change in scenery can help me combat burnout, but I find it hard to get a space to study in on campus due to the restrictions in place,” Davis said.
Davis is a student who struggles with ADHD on top of the challenges of being a college student, he said. Contrary to most people, online classes have actually helped him prevent burnout because he is able to learn in a comfortable environment on his own time.
When he feels burnt out he experiences mild depression and an inability to focus, Davis said.
“I find it hard to focus on schoolwork due to my ADHD, but when I am burnt out, rather than a lack of focus, I just feel a mental block preventing me from doing any work,” Davis said. “I tend to lose interest or focus in some of my daily activities and especially in my school work. It also leads to a noticeable dip in my grades around the middle of the semester, and I always have to put in more work in the second half of the semester to get them back up.”
Davis said the middle of the semester is where he feels most burnt out because it is at the point where it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This semester will be especially tough because there is no spring break, which is when most students get a mental reset.
Intramural sports, hanging out with friends, playing video games, going to the gym and journaling are ways he practices self-care, Davis said.
“The main way I keep myself motivated is thinking about my family. My parents have definitely made a lot of sacrifices to help put me through college, and I want to make them proud and show them that I am working hard in school,” Davis said. “Another motivating factor for me is thinking into the future, realizing that I will not be in school forever, and I will soon move on to a career that I enjoy.”
Maria Pruneda, a senior public relations major from Kerville, said asynchronous classes were really tough for her but sees improvement this semester with synchronous classes.
“This time last semester, I had asynchronous classes, and I was totally burnt out (in) like a month,” Pruneda said. “This semester, actually getting to see my professor’s faces, talk to them and create a relationship with them has helped so much.”
Pruneda said she thinks a big contributor to burnout is a lack of awareness and leniency from professors of the full workload students have. She wishes professors would allow more mental health days and be more understanding that students have more than one class to worry about doing well in.
Burnout for her is feeling unmotivated to learn and feels like she is just putting words on paper instead of trying to absorb the material, she said.
”It’s important to take days when I’ve had a stressful week to drop everything and focus on myself and my mental health,” Pruneda said. “This will be my last semester in the fall, and at this point, I’m kind of begging for a degree. Just keeping my eye on the prize and knowing that all of this will be worth it in the end when I have a career keeps me motivated.”