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Causes of College Student Burnout

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 1692 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Understanding Student Burnout

 College students begin their university experience with many emotions. Some are overcome by excitement to start a new chapter in their lives. They feel ready to take on the world and begin ‘adulting.’ They are positive about their ability to succeed. Others however, may begin their college experience with feelings of anxiety, fear of failure, and homesickness. It is important to consider every emotion a student can possibly feel, because it can shape his or her college experience. Today college students face several challenges. They have to balance their health, academics, social life, and for some their work life. To better understand student burnout, one must take into account all aspects of a student’s life (Cushman & West, 2016).

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Burnout was introduced in 1974 by Freudenberger and he defined it as “to fail, to wear out, or become exhausted by making excessive demands on energy, strength, and resources” (Jacobs & Dodd, 2003, p.291). Burnout has three components: exhaustion, cynicism, and self-efficacy (Moneta, 2011).  Exhaustion is related to work activities, cynicism represents a loss of interest and self-efficacy is characterized by “inability to perform as required” (Moneta, 2011, p. 274).  Originally, burnout only focused on occupational groups, for example, people working in human services, teachers, and nurses (Jacobs & Dodd, 2003; Moneta, 2011; Schaufeli, Martinez, Pinto, Salanova, & Bakker, 2002; Yang, 2004).  However, now more research is being conducted among students to better understand what factors lead to burnout and how to prevent it (Jacobs & Dodd, 2003).

Having a better understanding of burnout in universities is important because burnout can influence the “attractiveness to a school” and a student’s commitment to their university (Neumann, Finaly-Neumann, &Reichel, 1990, p. 20). In addition, student burnout can influence school dropout rates (Marôco & Campos, 2012). This is important to consider, especially at Brigham Young University- Idaho because their retention rate is 69% (BYU-I, n.d). This is a low number compared to the national retention rate average for private universities, which is 81% (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). Consequently, burnout may be a potential factor of retention at BYU-Idaho.

Several of the studies that have been conducted among college students to better understand what factors lead to student burnout are congruent. Among the many studies that have been conducted, researchers found that some common factors include a student’s workload (Cushman & West, 2006; Pisarik, 2009); a student’s personality (Capri, Ozkendir, Ozkurt & Karakus, 2012; Jacobs & Dodd, 2003; Karimi, Bashirpur, Khabbaz, & Hedayati, 2014; Moneta, 2011), and the social support a student has (Jacobs & Dodd, 2003; Karimi et al., 2014). 

Influence of Student’s Workload on Burnout

 Balancing a heavy workload can be difficult, regardless of a student’s year in college. When a student has a long list of assignments to complete, he or she may feel a lack of motivation to complete the list. Pisarik (2009) states higher motivation can help students experience lower levels of exhaustion. On the other hand, a student may feel discouraged to complete his or her assignments. A student can become emotionally or physically exhausted because of their heavy demands on energy. As a result, assignment overload is a precursor to student burnout (Cushman & West, 2006). Consequently, the burnout caused by workload can lead to poor academic performance (Salanova, Schaufeli, Martinez, & Breso, 2010).  This is important to consider because one of the dimensions of burnout is exhaustion and exhaustion is related to workload (Moneta, 2011; Yang 2004).

Influence of Student’s Personality on Burnout

 Some students experience high levels of self-esteem. They believe in their ability to be successful. On the other hand, some students struggle to understand their worth and their ability to be successful in their life. It is important to recognize these feelings because a student’s personality is related to one of the concepts of burnout: self-efficacy. Several findings on the effect of self-efficacy and personality on burnout were congruent (Capri et al., 2012; Jacobs & Dodd, 2003; Rahmati, 2015).  Students who have higher levels of self-efficacy are capable of creating calm environments when they are under pressure (Rahmati, 2015). Consequently, if a student has negative thoughts or a negative personality, he or she will experience burnout (Jacobs & Dodd, 2003).  In addition, when students experience high self-efficacy and life satisfaction, they experience less burnout (Capri et al., 2012).  Karimi et al., (2014) introduced the concept of perfectionism, and concluded students who have higher levels of perfectionism experience less academic burnout. Understanding how a student feels about himself or herself and their ability to achieve success in school or life is important to consider as a factor of burnout.

Influence of Student’s Social Support on Burnout

 College can be a time when students learn more about their relationships with others. Some students might discover they miss their family; they might have a hard time making new friends at a new school, or they might have a hard time communicating with their professors. For many students having time with family and friends is important and it is something they prioritize. A student can feel support and be uplifted when they discuss their struggles with family members, friends or professors. Having social support can lower and prevent burnout (Jacobs and Dodd, 2003; Karimi et al., 2014).  Having social support in college is vital to a student’s success.

 Further research in student burnout can help better understand the factors that lead to burnout in college students. It is important to assess all the aspects of a student’s life when conducting research among college students. A better understanding of student burnout will improve student health, their academics, and their social life.


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