Talking Mental Health In College- Q & A with Richard Kadison, M.D. of Harvard University

Maria Pascucci, president of Campus Calm, had the opportunity to talk with Richard Kadison, M.D., about why high schools and colleges are seeing a rise in the number of stressed-out students battling mental health problems. Kadison is the chief of the Mental Health Service at Harvard University Health Services and author of College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It. Kadison has specialized in campus mental health and student mental health treatment throughout his career.

Campus Calm: Why are college campuses seeing a rise in the number of students with mental health issues?

Kadison: There are lots of reasons we’re seeing a rise in the number of students with mental health issues. We’re seeing more students who get diagnosed with serious problems in high school and they’re functioning well enough to get to college. That’s one group. I think there is the millennial group of students with what are described as helicopter parents who hover over them, and basically make decisions for them. You know the old metaphor about teaching people to fish instead of getting them fish. I think there’s a lot of handing out of fish that goes on in high school. Kids are also being shuttled from one activity to another, kind of building their college resume and not having much down time and not really feeling passionate about things.

Campus Calm: How big of a part does the lack of sleep, eating right and exercising play in students being stressed out?

Kadison: The lack of sleep, I think, is a huge issue. College students are sleeping an average of 6 1/2 hours each night and they definitely experience symptoms of sleep deprivation, which screws up their immune systems, impairs their academic functioning and makes them more susceptible to depression and bipolar disorder.

Exercise is another huge issue. There’s good evidence for milder forms of depression, four days of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise works as well as antidepressant medication. A lot of students get busy, stop exercising and eating healthy, get more depressed, have more difficulty getting their work done, then start stressing out and have more difficulty sleeping. They get into this vicious cycle.

Campus Calm: How much of a part does perfectionism play in the lives of stressed-out students? How does Harvard’s counseling center deal with academic perfectionism amongst students?

Kadison: That’s certainly a big issue here and I would say, most elite schools. I talked to the directors of the other ivies. There are two major thrusts. I would say one is trying to create some balance in students’ lives. They need to take care of themselves. Working all the time is not the best way to live. Having conversations with them about excellence versus perfection and working hard and trying to focus. But no one test, no one course, no one situation is going to make or break your life. Lives take twists and turns that none of us expect.

Number one: you need to learn how to be resilient. Number two: learn some techniques and skills to manage stress because what you have in high school and college isn’t going to change once you get out into the real world.

Campus Calm: Whom do you see more of: overachieving guys or girls? Is it true that women seek help more than young men? Why or why not?

Kadison: In terms of more women seeking care, I think probably that’s because women are more tuned into their emotions. There’s less stigma. I don’t think the numbers are different — it’s just that men aren’t always wise enough to come in to talk to some one about it.

Campus Calm: How do you work to help students find meaningful ways to base their identities beyond grades & awards?

Kadison: That’s exactly the challenge. It’s people figuring out who they are — we all have faults, we all make mistakes and we all do things we wish we hadn’t done. The key is really to get to know yourself, figure out how to accept yourself and do the best that you can. Getting students outwardly focused, again in balance, so that they’re engaged in their community. There’s growing evidence that the more students are doing something to help their community, like working with high school kids, or volunteering somewhere, those students have much more satisfactory experiences in college than students who are completely self-focused. It’s creating an environment where that’s really encouraged and rewarded.

Campus Calm: Do you think that our current academic culture allows kids to learn how to make mistakes and fail safely?

Kadison: Well, I think part of the process is really the education of the whole community. It’s not just the students. We try to do outreach activities and provide consultations to faculty, staff and residential staff. The reality is though, if the culture in the lab is that the professor is in the lab until 3 a.m., and expects everyone else to be there until 3 a.m., that’s not a healthy message for students.

I think mental health advocacy groups are a good idea because students listen to other students more than other professional adults. Having advocacy groups so students can hear that getting depressed in college is nothing to be ashamed of and it’s very treatable if you come and talk to someone about it.

Campus Calm: Is an Ivy League education always the best way to reach success?

Kadison: I think that students can get a great education at any school. There’s students who come here to Harvard and don’t get a great education because it’s a bad fit for them. Being around other bright people who are totally focused on their academics doesn’t help them learn how to create any kind of balance in their lives. That leads to a disappointment.

Campus Calm: So many students see straight A’s and other academic achievements as stepping stones that will lead them to a good college, which will lead them to a good graduate school, then to a good job and, ultimately, a happy life. Does our society put too much emphasis on this one path to happiness and prosperity?

Kadison: As far as students seeing grades as stepping-stones, I think that’s true. There’s some reality in there and it’s also a problem. I think to some degree this is up to the college admissions folks, that leading a balanced life and being engaged in your community is just as important as being successful academically. Doing other things that you feel passionate about.

How to Improve Your College Admissions Essay

The college admissions essay can be quite a daunting and intimidating task for many aspiring college students. However, the college admissions essay does not have to be so bad. In all actuality though, it seems many colleges do favor an application essay which knocks them off their feet, but in that case, a book on writing essays may help with that task along with a LOT of practice. On the other hand, many colleges and universities just want to know more about YOU…while seeing how well you write.

Colleges and universities WANT you to succeed. They want you to do well on the college admissions essay so they can accept you and make them look great! In order to help you along with this task, I have put together some tips to help all students along with their university admissions essays.

First thing I wanted to point out is that focusing and staying on a topic that you know about very well is key. This will show, through your writing, that you are very sincere and do not appear to be misleading anyone. Write what you now about.

Put a little bit of humor in your writing. Of course, the college application essay is not a stand up comedy routing, but a little humor helps show a more modest side to your self. Remember to stay on topic while modestly making light humor out of some of the subject matter in your college admissions essay topic.

In reference to the last tip, remember that you don’t need to impress the reader with something you don’t really have. Try to avoid using really big words that you normally would never ever use in real life. This will only come across as inflated and a little odd to them. But don’t worry, they read enough of this type of thins in many college admissions essays all the time from others. Be original.

Even though there may be an option to hand write your college application essay, try to type your essay out completely. If you cannot gain access to a computer or simply must write your essay out, then be sure to write as legibly as you can. A messy-looking essay may not show your writing in its best light and may even potentially hurt the reader’s impression of your writing skills overall. So it is just safer to type the essay when applying for college.

Start out with a rough draft of your essay and make improvements as you go along rather than simply writing from the heart and letting destiny do the rest. This will give you an opportunity to look over your grammar and be sure that it is clear, concise and legible (if writing by hand). You are trying to make the best impression possible for this admissions essay so make this shot count.

After you have written the essay and have made corrections on it, have family and friends look at it with a critical eye. Ask friends or family members who have already written a college application essay to take a look at it to see if it does any justice based on their past essay experience.

As I mentioned earlier, different colleges have different requirements for their admissions essays and it would be very wise to read over all of the guidelines the college or university sets forth in regards to your college admissions essay. It is very important to follow directions, especially when you want them to educate you. So be sure that the essay is no longer or shorter than what they require.

These tips and referring to other essay-writing resources can help you, as a student, to really achieve your college goals and getting into that college you really wanted to attend. In many cases, seemingly smaller things such as the college essay for admissions makes such a big difference as it is the only real statement you are able to make in reference to the consideration of your admission to the college. So give it your best shot and show those essay readers the best side of you.

The Cost Of A Worthless Degree From California State University Just Got More Costly

Inflation has been all but non-existent during the Obama Years, yet you wouldn’t know that looking at the increase of College/University Tuition at the State Level, especially in California. Students are told in High School that college is mandatory to have a fruitful life and live in the elusive middle class, and are told to go into debt to get that degree (more like economic enslavement) with no guarantee. Most of the college professors and administrators are in the 2%, no not the 1% but well ahead of what their students should ever expect to get to. Let’s talk, because the academic bubble is still building and its about to pop – things have gotten way out of hand.

There was a rather troubling segment on ABC News Affiliate in Los Angeles (Eyewitness News 7) recently titled: “CSU Trustees Vote to Raise Tuition by 5% Amid Protest From Students” on March 22, 2017.

First, I’d like to point out that the education hasn’t gotten any better at the California State University System, by all measures and accounts it has gotten worse. Degreed Students are valued less in the marketplace, as employers realize their education isn’t as good, and that those degrees don’t predict the students will be productive employees or even have a clue as to what they are doing.

Most professors, especially tenured professors are not teaching in the classroom much, as they spend lots of time on sabbaticals, and have grad students lecturing now. The increased costs of the university has to do with legacy costs (Pensions) and increase healthcare Cadillac Style Health Care Programs for staff and professors. Although their pension fund is not as bad as the University of California System which highly underfunded, it isn’t breaking any records either – this Trump Bump in the stock market recently has saved their asses (temporarily) if you’d like to know the true skinny on that.

It’s time to face facts – The CSU system (California State University) is broken, academia is broken close the damn universities who give degrees in Gender Studies, Sustainability, Ethnic Equality, LBGT Studies – those kids aren’t going to get work to ever pay off those student loans – academia is on drugs by any rational observable standard – worthless – totally worthless surviving off of Federal Research Grants and Taxpayers and extortion tuition, subsidies and socialist agendas. Some at our think tank online, to put it quite bluntly, say; “To hell with all of it, it’s just BS now,” and I believe these think tank members are absolutely correct.

Why the 5% increase in tuition when enrollment is at an all-time high? Why the increase in tuition without increased benefits? The degrees aren’t worth any more than they were last year, in fact they are worth less now. The California State University System is out-of-control just like the University of California System is, and academia across the country is with student loan debt hovering at 1.4 Trillion Dollars, 45% of those loans have never made a single payment or are 90-days overdue. The academic industrial complex is a giant bubble about to burst, and what does the CSU system do? Raise tuition? Oh, well that’s just going to help a lot lot… NOT!

10 Tips for Transferring College Credits

College students head of each August to colleges both domestically and internationally. Many students leave with the belief that they will graduate from the college where they are headed. However, some will find that life circumstances such as loss of financial aid, family issues or poor academic performance may result in them having to transfer to a college that may be cheaper, smaller, or closer to home. There are some students who at the onset of their college career decide to attend a 2-year community college and later transfer to a 4-year college or university. Below are several tips to help maximize acceptance of transferred college credits.

1. Keep your Course Syllabus.

Make sure to keep copies of the course syllabus from all of your classes. The course syllabus provides information about the course number, number of credits, outlines the course objectives and details course content. The course syllabus will allow the transferring college to match the course with a similar course in their catalogue to see if you can receive transfer credit.

2. Keep your coursework.

Keep all of your relevant coursework from each course in a labeled folder. Some colleges may request work samples in addition to the course syllabus. Also keep copies of the quizzes, exams and homework within the same labeled course folder.

3. Make an A in your courses.

Getting the transfer college to accept all of your course credits will be a daunting task. However, to help ensure that your course credits are accepted, you are encouraged to make the highest academic grade possible in your courses. Colleges are less likely to accept courses in which you demonstrated average (C grade) performance.

4. Keep a copy of all report cards.

All colleges provide a college transcript that details course number, course title, number of credits for the course, credits earned for that course and grade earned. However, it is important that the student maintain their own report card file. Review your report card at the end of each semester to verify that both the proper grades and courses were credited to your college transcript.

5. Start the transfer process early.

Once you decide that you intend to transfer, meet/email an admission advisor from the transfer college to determine what necessary paperwork will be required. Adhere to all posted deadlines to ensure that you are able to enroll in a timely manner.

6. Keep a copy of all files.

Don’t give the transfer college your original paperwork/documentation. Make copies or have them make copies of the required documentation.

7. Complete any additional paperwork.

Some colleges may require additional paperwork, entrance exams, placement tests etc. Complete all required paperwork before the deadline otherwise it may delay your enrollment and/or the disbursement of your financial aid.

8. Provide an official transcript.

Transfer colleges will require that you provide an official sealed transcript from the registrar at your current college. Some will want the transcript to be sent to them directly from the registrar while others may allow you to hand deliver a sealed transcript to their office.

9. Request several personal copies of your official transcripts.

Be sure to request several personal copies of your official transcripts for your own records. In the future you may be required to provide transcripts from ALL colleges you attended regardless if you obtained a degree. It may be challenging to get your transcripts if you no longer reside in the state or if you need to provide transcripts ten years later for employment/educational purposes. Do NOT open the sealed transcripts as this will make them invalid and unofficial.

10. Be patient.

Transferring to a different college may be intimidating. Take your time and don’t wait until the last minute to start the process. Plan ahead to ensure a smooth transition to your new college.

Top 10 Study Tips For University Success

While it may be true that not everyone learns in the most effective way by doing the same things, there are certain fundamentals that you can follow in order to virtually guarantee yourself academic success during your time at University. No matter what degree you take or what College you’re enrolled in, University classes are all structured in similar ways. Lectures, text book readings, assignments, projects, quizzes, midterm and final exams. Knowing the format of the class beforehand allows students to create a strategy that when implemented and stuck to, results in good grades and less stress. Here are our top 10 study habits you should try to implement into your strategy for academic success at University!

#10 – Take Extensive Notes

Probably the most tedious of our top 10, taking good notes is hard to do consistently. In our ADHD world, many students find it difficult to maintain their focus long enough to record the information given out during lectures. However, when it comes time to write a quiz/test/exam you’ll be glad you have that pile of notes to review and refresh your brain with. Taking good notes is in itself an act of learning, as one cannot write something down that doesn’t make sense on some level. This small act goes a long way in creating the foundation for a solid understanding of the material being covered. Taking notes also has the added bonus of keeping your brain occupied and awake by staving off restlessness and boredom. An excellent method I learned in my first year of Engineering was to scribble down everything that seemed useful in some manner, almost as if you were transcribing the lecture. Later that day, transfer and rewrite the notes into an understandable form in another notebook. This will cement the information into your mind, moving the material from your short term memory into your long term. Lastly, notes have become a source of income for many students as those who take excellent notes are often sought after by the lazier students who are willing to pay a premium for a great set of notes to study from. You will not only get good grades, but you will be getting paid to do so as well. If that’s not a win-win I don’t know what is!

#9 – Obtain Old Exams and Assignments

If possible, try to find exams and assignments from previous years to give yourself a good idea of what subject matter the instructors are most likely to test you on. They don’t have to have the answers to be useful and in fact for many students they are even more useful without because this way the student can attempt the exam/assignment as a check of their knowledge, identifying any weak areas that they should go back and re-study. Old exams and assignments are often made available through class websites, student union websites, or through College clubs or associations. One common tactic many students use for science classes with a lab section is to find a graded lab notebook from a previous year. Labs are notoriously difficult in terms of time constraints and for what’s expected from a student lab report. Having a format to follow along with is an incredible help and knowing where not to make mistakes is invaluable as well.

#8 – Begin Studying For Exams EARLY

Between academics and your social life, time is not something you’ll have lots of throughout your University career. But one thing you should always make time for is exam studying. There’s nothing worse than leaving all of your studying for the night before an important test or exam. The stress causes your brain to panic and when you panic, you won’t learn as well as you normally would. Studying a little bit each night during the week leading up to the exam will not only make you better prepared but it will remove most of the stress you’d have if you had left your studying for the last minute. Early exam studying allows a student to identify weak spots in their understanding and to prioritize their studying accordingly. Just imagine studying until the early morning of the day of your exam only to find you’ve completely ignored a section that you have little to no understanding in. Don’t let that happen by studying EARLY!

#7 – Use a Laptop During Class If Possible

If permitted, use a laptop for note-taking during your lectures. Most students can type faster than they can write so they will be able to record much more information than they normally would. If the classroom has WiFi you’ll have the added ability to research topics you’re unsure of during lulls or breaks in the lecture. If a professor uses a word you’ve never heard before, just alt-tab over to dictionary.com and look it up! Or, if the lecture is completely flying over your head, e-mail the professor from your seat and set up an appointment to discuss the day’s lecture. There are many uses for a laptop during class, I’ll let you imagine the other not-so-academic uses. Many students have grown up with a computer being a staple in their lives so it’s only natural to use it as a tool for learning as well. It’s an easy transition for your brain to go from Facebook to Powerpoint! If a laptop purchase is in your future, refer to our article for tips on choosing a budget laptop for students.

#6 – Use Your Time Wisely

In between classes as well as before and after school, there are many opportunities to sneak in some studying or homework that many students either don’t realize or just don’t use. I’ve known people who would study on the bus during the ride to and from school. I’ve also known people that would combine their time at the gym with their study time! Just bring your notes and instead of watching the TV’s and listening to your iPod, wear ear plugs and read your notes. You get a workout for your body and for your brain! Always keep your notes handy and try to use any spare time you have even for simple review to make sure you’re on top of the material. All of those small moments you fill with studying will really add up to a solid understanding and you’ll find that you require less studying when exam time arrives. That’s huge.

#5 – Get Your Questions Resolved ASAP!

University classes tend to operate with the “snowball effect” as the primary method for topic progression. That is, the information is cumulative and the last stuff you learned will be instrumental in understanding the next stuff! So anytime you don’t understand something or have a question about the subject matter, get your question answered as soon as you can. Whether by asking during or after class, through an e-mail or phone call to the prof, or even by asking a fellow student, you need to stay on top of the subject matter in order to be ready for the next stuff that’s coming. Don’t let the holes in your understanding be knowledge pits for the future!

#4 – Get To Know Some of Your Classmates

This one can be extremely difficult and stressful for many people these days. Meeting people is becoming increasingly difficult in a world of social stigmas and fears of disapproval. I’m not going to tell you how to meet people, just that when you do, the benefits will be immediately apparent. Having a buddy to sit with during class, having someone to lean on for notes from a lecture that you missed, being able to bounce questions and ideas off of somebody, and most importantly having someone to check your assignment answers with before you hand it in, are all spectacular reasons to swallow your nerves and start saying “Hi! My name is….” to the people in your class.

#3 – Explore Other Class Resources

Many class outlines will have “optional” reading listed along with the required textbook. This is often a HUGE opportunity for easy marks and guaranteed success in the particular class. Professors are humans just like me and you. Their job is to relay the required material and then test you on it. If they’re using the required textbook as reference for the learning part, where do you think they’re going to get the material for the testing part? If you said “the required textbook”, you’re wrong and you need to stop thinking like a high school student! Professors will often take test questions out of their favorite textbooks, resulting in quality assessments from a trusted source. Those favorite textbooks are often listed as optional reading material either on the class website or on the course outline. Also don’t forget the mighty Internet. YouTube is an insane resource for How-to’s, recorded lectures from other schools, and general knowledge videos on every subject matter imaginable. Use Wikipedia and Google as well to find extra(often better!) resources on whatever it is that you’re struggling with.

#2 – Pre-Read Lecture Material

I discovered this one by accident, even if it is, or should be common sense. One night I was bored. Really bored. I grabbed a text book for a class whose lecture I had the next morning and I began reading from the point we stopped at in the previous lecture. It was difficult to understand and took a lot of focus to push through it but the next day in class while listening to the Professor, it crystallized in my mind and was easy from then on. It had the added benefit of being committed to my long term memory giving me a greater and more thorough understanding of the material. It makes sense if you think about it, I was essentially learning the material twice. Once independently and once with the help of an expert. These combined into a solid understanding that I still possess to this day. Now I’d love to suggest that you do this for every class, every night. But we all know that isn’t reasonable so what I do suggest is that you use this technique for anything that you deem to be very difficult or abstract. That way you’ll have a great head start on understanding and mastering the hard stuff, leaving plenty of time for filling in the gaps with the easy stuff!

#1 – Go To Class!

While going to class sounds too simple to be our #1 most effective studying habit, it truly is and I’ll tell you why. Going to class not only keeps you disciplined and focused on what you’re at University to do, but it also lets you absorb the subject matter simply by sitting through the lectures. If you’re an auditory learner this is huge because just listening to the lectures will create an understanding that should be enough to pass the class in itself! If you’re a visual learner then watching the notes being written on the board or reading through the slides during the presentation will give you the necessary understanding to pass the class. Going to class also ensures you have the latest news on assignments, tests, quizzes, and exams straight from your Professor’s mouth. You don’t want to be that student that shows up for class once a week only to find there’s a scheduled test on that day! Simply going to your classes like you’re supposed to is much more powerful than most students realize. If you look at the nine tips before this you’ll see that most of them actually require this step as a pre-requisite so that should also be an indicator of how important it is to attend your classes without fail.

As a student who has both failed classes and received honors in classes I can definitely say that the above tips and techniques will work for you. Whether you use some or all of them is up to you, but just remember that University is an individual sport and you’ll only get out of it what you’re willing to put in! I hope you’ve found these tips useful and informative, good luck and stay classy!