Opinion | Why Many College Students Are Struggling

To the Editor:

My mom informed me during a routine phone conversation that a recent graduate of a peer high school had died by suicide earlier that week, the fifth suicide in 2022 in our circles. “It feels like my generation has failed your generation,” she said.

Between a raging pandemic, a worsening climate crisis, ceaseless war and seemingly constant mass shootings, my peers and I find ourselves increasingly hopeless about our ability to thrive in the world, to make a positive difference in its future.

Needless to say, we cannot be our best selves in the classroom: We are burned out, angry, isolated, despairing. We are not OK.

Adolescent mental health and the ways it is affected by current events must be a constant consideration for educational institutions. I believe that my peers and I are capable of learning, but we receive and process information differently than students from previous generations — or even from five years ago. We require standards that are not necessarily looser, but that are suited to the student experience in the pandemic and the digital age.

Lindsay Carlin
Palo Alto, Calif.
The writer is a freshman at Stanford University.

To the Editor:

Jonathan Malesic’s essay makes for discouraging reading. And I am astounded by the difference between the disengagement that he describes and my experience from March 2020 to June 2021, when I taught undergraduates at a public university entirely through Zoom and other internet-based resources.

My courses were primarily small, discussion-based courses, and right from the panicked start of the emergency shift online, my students seemed more energized than ever in class. They were living at home, joining class from their bedrooms, and clearly found the courses a relief from isolation.

They were required to submit a written comment on the reading for each class several hours before we met, so that I could use their questions and insights to shape the discussion. The students had thought through the issues more carefully than had been the case before our transition to online.