The purpose of this was to determine what types of stressors affect students stress levels so these could be incorporated into the questionnaire in a question. The next step was to consider what ways in which students might deal with stress. These included; denial, crying, drinking, becoming aggressive and not mixing with other people. It was then necessary to decide upon some open format and closed format questions. This was done in note form at first so that the primary ideas could be enhanced upon later.
It was necessary to include a gender question so that any notable differences between the sexes could be examined.
Next an open-ended question was conjured to discover what students actually found stressful about their university life. It then became apparent that the questionnaire needed to reveal if at all university life was making students stressed or if there was no apparent difference within them. This would reveal if a change in a person’s environment would greatly affect their levels of stress.
Subsequently, the next question focused on the level of difficulty students found it being away from home. The scale was done here numerically, with one being not difficult at all and five being very difficult.
The purpose of this particular question was to determine if being away from your ‘usual’ environment alters your stress levels. The next question was how frequently students feel stressed. The frequency in which students feel stressed helps to establish what stressors they react to the most and when their peak stressed moment are.
The next question dealt with each stressor separately and was needed to establish a connection between what students feel contribute to their stress levels and again how often these occur.
The following question was an open-ended question, asking if they dealt with stress in any other way than the ones given and to describe these methods of dealing. The next set of questions dealt with if the respondent had been on a gap year or if they had gone straight from secondary education to university. The last question asked if the respondent had been away from home for more than a month. Initially this question was worded differently as instead of for more than a month it was worded for a long period of time. It quickly became apparent that respondents were finding this particular question ambiguous.
What did they believe was a long period of time? Every person would no doubt react to this question differently so therefore more precise wording was used instead. The questionnaire was then sampled on ten people. This was the preliminary questionnaire which results in alterations being made on ambiguous wording. The final questionnaire was then given to forty first year students. Sampling provides a valid alternative when it would be impracticable to survey all the first year students as this would involve time and money constraints.
In fact researches have argued that using sampling makes possible a higher overall accuracy than a census. 7 In fact the smaller number for which I needed to collect data meant more time spent analysing my findings. To ensure validity it was necessary to use a sample audience of both male and females to compare their choices and to use both gap year and non gap students. All the students that participated were between the ages of 18 and 21. The purpose of this was to ascertain if there are substantial differences between the sexes and of those that had taken a year out before going to university.
Each questionnaire took approximately 3minutes to complete and was kept anonymous with only their gender identifying them. Before the questionnaire was completed the respondent read the covering letter which ensured that any information gathered would remain strictly confidential and only be used in this assignment. Each questionnaire was collected and split into gap year and non gap year sections to establish if there were any notable differences in the profile of stress among students. Tally charts were made for each question to see which answers were rated the highest.
It was initially discovered that more females had taken gap years than males. This was interesting in terms of what students found stressful as more males found managing money, lack of sleep and workload the most stressful whilst females tended to agree that the university work load was the greatest stressor. This could be down to several reasons; perhaps girls adapt better to living on their own and managing themselves or perhaps girls regard their work as more important than the other stressors.
Both these statements are of course generalisations but they do need considerable thought. It was also apparent that those that had taken gap years revealed that their levels of stress since beginning university had stayed the same and had not been greatly affected, again they have perhaps come out of the workplace and are more accustomed to possible stressors, whereas more non gap year students indicated that their stress level had increased since the beginning of term.
These findings are perhaps what is already to be expected, the research has clarified that the sample of gap year students used generally feel that their stress levels are no different to before they started university. The P-E fit model is perhaps the theory that has been most widely discussed in literature to describe stress related research. . The models proposes that strain occurs when the relationship between the person and the environment is out of equilibrium. The frequency in which first year students feel stressed also had some interesting results.
Both gap year and non gap year students felt stressed at least once a week, but it was also interesting to realise that some non gap year students also felt stressed everyday. Not one gap year student ticked this box, the frequency of their stress levels occurred either once a week or once a fortnight or in one case not at all! This was also the case when establishing which stressors were frequently experienced. In this case, both non gap year and gap year students experience the same stressors as often as each other. Having no money was a stressor that occurred most frequently, followed by work overload and relationships.
The ways in which students deal with stress were also quite similar in comparison between non gap year and gap year students. Drinking was a popular choice of dealing with stress, followed by denial and crying. In the next open-ended question it was apparent however, that gap year students had more concise theories on how to do deal with stress when it occurs. The majority of non gap year students suggested that they would talk to friends where as gap year students responded with more energetic responses such as playing sport.
The extent to which taking a gap year changes the profile of stress among first year students is highly noticeable. The amount of stress experienced within first years differs between gap year students and non gap year students. Gap year students interpret stress to be less severe than those of non gap year students. Gap year students tend to feel stressed less often than those of non gap year students. However, the ways in which stress is dealt with among first year students tends to be highly similar.
The differences between males and females also reveal that more females tended to have participated in a gap year. The research conducted is only the tip of the iceberg, to gain more precise conclusions there needs to much larger sampling with every consideration being taken into account. All research seeks to gain truth and knowledge through careful precision and a clear, precise methodology; if more thorough widespread research were to be conducted perhaps defining stress might not be that ambiguous after all.
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