Too Perfect

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Good grades, sleep or a social life. Pick two.

It’s something students joke about, but it’s a sad reality. There’s an underlying expectation of perfection on Canadian university campuses, and it’s something few students can live up to.

Three years ago, I graduated from high school as a top student, where hard work would mean top marks.

This quickly changed when I arrived at Queen’s. My first-year marks could only be described as mediocre, and three years later, they still haven’t fully recovered.

When I was in second year, I dealt with a short bout of depression that coincided with an extremely stressful academic time. I think it would be naïve to say the two weren’t interrelated.

Luckily, I recovered on my own, but many other students struggling with mental health issues aren’t as lucky.

It’s no wonder young people, especially university students, have such a high rate of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

A 2005 survey of Ontario university students found that 42 per cent felt elevated distress during their time in post-secondary education. When I look at the current university structure and the vulnerabilities faced by our age group, I see a formula for disaster.

If I graduated this year with a 4.3 GPA but didn’t have one extracurricular activity on my resume, there’s no doubt my lack of involvement on campus would be questioned by prospective employers.

We’re expected to be perfect in an imperfect world. We’re told we can’t choose between good grades, extracurriculars, our health and a social life — we must have them all.

Those students who don’t pick two but make an attempt to fulfill every expectation are the ones who risk undue stress and mental illness. The expectation for perfection on campuses needs to change. We need to continue raising awareness on these issues and discuss potential solutions to the larger problem.

We students may be young and vibrant, but we’re not superhuman.

Alison is one of the Features Editors at the Journal.

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