A College Magazine article attempted to name the “most competitive, challenging and stress-inducing” schools in the country and placed Brigham Young University as number four on the list. BYU surpassed Harvard, United States Naval Academy, Columbia and Princeton, among others, in CM’s roundup of the most “high-strung” universities in the United States.
The article claimed that BYU’s strict honor code and tough requirements for major programs contribute to its high-stress atmosphere. The author, Jensen Werley, explained that the unique combination of BYU’s high academic ranking with its rigid rules led her to put it on the top of the list.
“The fact it was reported that you couldn’t have caffeine or alcohol made (BYU) seem more stressful than a school where you can buy a giant coffee to help you stay up all night or drink a beer after a week of tests,” Werley said. “I imagine if an Ivy League student had their coffee taken away they would stress even more.”
However, BYU students like Mairin Mildenhall feel that substance restrictions in BYU’s honor code are not a source of stress at all, as most students were already accustomed to living according to its standards before they came to college.
“For the vast majority of students here, drinking and drugs are not even a temptation,” Mildenhall wrote in a comment on the article. “In fact, most people who choose BYU do so because they prefer an environment that is free of substance abuse.”
The College Magazine article quoted BYU student Addison Day, a sophomore who plans to apply for the accounting program in June. Day said he was contacted by Werley, who was looking for a student from BYU to contribute to her story about the most high-strung schools in America. Werley stated in her article that Day said rules against drugs and alcohol at BYU “only add to the stress.”
Day said he hoped speaking to The Universe would help clear up his name, as he has been receiving some heat from fellow students who feel he improperly represented how BYU students feel about their honor code. Day said he felt Werley implied a meaning from his words that he had not intended. When asked if he personally feels the honor code adds to stress at BYU, Day said, “No, not at all. It makes it better.”
“The first thing that I said is (the honor code) probably makes it easier for most people,” he said. “But I did definitely describe the school as high-strung, you know, it’s competitive. It’s a hard school. But it wasn’t because of the honor code.”
Whether or not BYU’s honor code is a source of stress for students, it reflects a general expectation for quality not only in academics but also in morality and health that can be above and beyond what other universities require of their students.
Meghan Higgins, a pre-communications major, explained that she wasn’t surprised to see BYU ranked as one of the top stress-inducing schools because she believes BYU sets a uniquely high bar for its students in every aspect of their lives.
“We work hard not only to achieve good grades, but also to live a morally honorable life by the standard of our school’s honor code without the loose activity that often surrounds other schools to help students get by,” Higgins said. “I believe the stress that results in the combination of the two is equivalent and comparable to the stress levels of maintaining a 4.0 GPA at Harvard.”
Challenging academics and the honor code may not be the only sources of stress unique to BYU students. Economics major Lauren Cole said the pressure to maintain an active dating life and to ultimately find a spouse can add additional anxiety in a culture where the importance of marriage is heavily emphasized.
“Not only are we expected to perform at school, but we are also expected to perform at relationships,” Cole wrote in a blog post responding to the College Magazine article. “How is that for freshmen stress.”
Cole said she feels high stress could also be related to a Mormon culture that values continued personal progression in every area. “It’s a harder lifestyle,” she said in an interview.
“I am not saying that BYU isn’t worth it,” Cole wrote. “BYU and the gospel of Jesus Christ offer a peace and a perspective that other college students just don’t have. I am just saying that BYU can be hard and stressful sometimes and that come finals week at BYU you may be running into many stress-induced psychos!”