Carolyn Hutyra | Thursday, April 10, 2014
As the Bend thaws and students quicken their pace with the coming spring and last few weeks before finals, students glancing around their classrooms might not observe a few missing students, a few faces who have been absent for the past few weeks or even months.
In a highly competitive academic environment, these young adults continuously attempt to keep pace with professors, exams and any and all activities that take up the space in between.
A pressure cooker in its own right, the University — needless to say — causes speculation to run rampant as to who or what drives students to withdraw from Notre Dame either permanently or for a short time each year due to stress.
With some form of competition around each corner, the question always seems to linger: “Is there more that I can do?”
This race to publish, obtain research positions, volunteer, lead and intern at the top companies and agencies on a global scale not only acts as a driving force, but also creates this ideal to strive for the formation of the perfect applicant.
As one science advising professor put it to a group of medical school applicants: “What they’re looking for is God; what they get is you.”
In this blame game, classes and teachers are always considered for their role in the stress load. Is it possible to decrease stress without compromising education? Hard to find is the parent who is willing to pay the heavy price for a Notre Dame education that lacks challenge.
Any number of situations, from poor grades to family problems to relationship issues, may easily culminate and act as a driving force to the breaking point.
In accepting the application stamped in blue and gold, high school students willingly and generally happily succumb to the inevitable pressure, this formidable challenge the University offers. At some point, however, realization dawns that the point of “enough” has passed. Perhaps, then, greater emphasis should be placed on intervention, on overcoming the stigma associated with seeking out help.
The greatest challenge, once again, is overcoming the self. In this environment that strives for perfection, seeking out aid is often, although inaccurately, viewed as a weakness. In fact, those who defy the stigma hurdle the larger barrier of social judgment.
It is they who deserve applause, commendation, respect. Time and again, the help of others acts as a sustaining force and should not be underestimated.
Rather than pointing a finger of blame at paths that converge at the breaking point, the student body must tackle the challenge of supporting one another. The University must actively and consistently offer opportunities for assistance and the self must be aware of stressful challenges and be willing to respond wisely.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.