The Daily Northwestern

Letter to the Editor: You don’t have to deal with college stress alone

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I read with great interest and sadness Isabella Soto’s essay for The Spectrum. In the late 1980s, I also experienced high levels of stress and short nights of sleep as a Weinberg undergraduate. For years after graduating, I would joke to friends that I’m “still sleeping off Northwestern.” As someone who has never been assaulted, I can only imagine how that compounds a student’s struggles in an already pressured college environment. In offering her hard-earned insights to us all, Soto is to be commended for her generosity — and for the bravery it must have taken to write them down.

Thirty years ago, I knew only a few classmates who dared to declare a double major. In the parlance of today’s generation, double majoring was just “a thing” back then. Now? It seems common for many students to pursue two majors. I have noticed, so often, one major fulfills the student’s practical and marketable side, whereas the second major is what the student “secretly” enjoys. I wonder if many students with double majors end up fully enjoying the “passion” major, given the time constraints and real-world expectations of the practical major. And, mostly, I wonder where and how they find the time to just be and process all that they are doing in any given quarter. If you consider that college is also a time to transition into adulthood, further differentiate from one’s family and, hopefully, make a few life-long friends, one major seems like enough to complement the other big tasks at hand. If I encourage students to choose the “passion” major and drop the practical one, I will surely be accused of meddling — but it is tempting to do so.

When I returned to Northwestern for graduate school, six years after my single-major days, I did so to pursue my passion of counseling college students — in large part because of the stress I remember feeling as a Weinberg undergraduate and only in small part to what I actually studied. While being a client of counseling is not for everyone, Soto’s essay is wise encouragement to her peers who may not understand that what they are feeling is a normal response to an extraordinarily stressful environment. Her essay is also a call to action — whether that be through joining in on this shared, too-often-stressful experience called college or in seeking out professionally-guided self-care called therapy.

Dan Gill
Weinberg, ’91, SESP ’99