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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 08, 2023

Culture of stress on campus is harmful and hurts students

How many times have you overheard a conversation that went like this:

Student 1: I wrote five pages of my paper last night; I didn’t get home from the library until after midnight.

Student 2, smugly smiling: Oh yeah? I had 35 calc problems to do and a 7:45 a.m. chem lab to get up for.

Whether we like to admit it or not, every student eventually falls victim to complaining about the amount of work they have to do. It is fairly common to see Snapchats of students studying with the timestamp of two, three or even four o’clock in the morning. Students find humor in seeing other people fast asleep on top of a pile of work at a library table. I get that the coveted window seats at College Library have great views, but should students really be watching the sunrise from the stacks?

It’s unlikely that any college student is immune to procrastination, which always seems to lead to strange work hours. Other students devote time to work or extracurriculars in addition to a rigorous course load, leaving only the early hours of the morning to complete tasks. It makes sense that every once in a while a student might lose some sleep over a particularly grueling assignment.

However, a multitude of capitalistic factors have created an unhealthy culture that suggests a person must be constantly exhausted in order to be successful when the opposite is true. Leaving work until the last minute is neither productive nor good for a person’s well-being. In addition, students might be able to get away with these habits in college but they won’t be acceptable in the workplace.

At a competitive school like UW-Madison, academic success sometimes gets taken too far. We glorify the messy bun and show up to lecture in clothes we might have slept in the night before. We hit the submit button at 11:57 p.m. and not a minute earlier, and then post about it so that our friends can see exactly how many pages we read and how little sleep we got. The trope of the overworked college student is becoming romanticized as much as the workaholic CEO because we can’t allow any room for doubt about how hard we are working. Honestly, I get it - if the all-nighter is inevitable, why not make a spectacle out of it? However, it’s kind of like asking someone how many credits they are taking this semester and then judging their work ethic from that- just because a person is only taking thirteen credits doesn’t make them lazy; conversely, just because someone stays up late every night doesn’t mean they’re working hard.

I understand that students want to make the most of their time here and that means making sacrifices. But if the point is to perform well then that cannot be accomplished when we don’t acknowledge that we must eventually put down the pencil (and the textbook, and the phone…) and reset. At the end of the day, the work has to get done, at what can seem like any cost, but we should also realize that people want to hear about the extent of your workload as much as they want to compare grades on the midterm — they don’t, because most of us are also committed students. Striving to improve academic habits for ourselves rather than because we want to be better than others is better for our individual well-being and the campus climate as a whole.

Izzy is a freshman majoring in political science and education policy. What do you think of this campus climate? Please send all of your comments to

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