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Anxiety can influence university and course choice, survey finds

To mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, The Student Room polled 2,700 young people on how anxiety has impacted their university choices

Student life
Seeta Bhardwa's avatar

Seeta Bhardwa

Editor, THE Student
May 8 2017
student anxiety and well-being


More than a quarter (26 per cent) of university applicants experience frequent anxiety issues, a new survey has revealed. 

In a survey to mark this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (8-14 May), The Student Room polled 2,700 young people in the UK to determine just how widespread anxiety and stress are among those applying to university. 

Respondents were asked whether their anxiety had impacted on their choice of university or course. One student said: “I didn't apply to the University of Cambridge because I didn't think I was good enough (retrospectively, I probably had a decent chance), and I didn't want to go through the interview process.”

Another said: “I was going to apply to a university with higher grades [needed for admission] and a more demanding course but I knew I would feel very anxious having to get those grades, and I wondered if I would even be able to handle the course if I got there.”

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A fifth of those with anxiety said that it was putting them off going to university altogether. Some 35 per cent said that issues with anxiety had strongly influenced their choice of university, and a quarter said it had impacted on their course choice.

Four in 10 (41 per cent) said the process of going to university was making them the most anxious they had ever felt. Just a fifth (19 per cent) thought that there is enough support to help students cope with the transition to university.

Three-quarters reported loss of sleep, 78 per cent struggled to concentrate on their studies, and 61 per cent experienced panic attacks. 

Some students were experiencing such high levels of anxiety that it was leading to suicidal thoughts (36 per cent) and 33 per cent said they had self-harmed.

The respondents were also asked to identify any causes or triggers for increased levels of anxiety. One student said: “The stress of the course, the inadequacy of the support at my university, the stress of not getting along with housemates, feeling like everyone struggles less with money than I do.”

Others said that social situations, financial worries and the pressure of finding a job after graduation contributed to increased levels of anxiety.

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Hannah Morrish, student choice and higher education lead at The Student Room, said that the survey highlights that for large numbers of students, anxiety is a serious issue.

“From the comments made in the survey, and on The Student Room forums, we see what a difference support and help for vulnerable students can make. We always encourage students to talk about their problems and seek help; and call for parents, teachers and universities to be more proactive in informing themselves about anxiety and in supporting students who struggle with these issues,” she added. 

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