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MIT Report Graphically Details Lives Of Students Under Pressure

From The Tech‘s special report on student stress at MIT

This student newspaper report, “Under Pressure” provides possibly the best data visualization ever of college stress — and leave it to MIT to do it. The ambitious and beautifully realized analysis of the MIT pressure cooker draws on the detailed responses of more than 3,100 students who opened up about their academic workload, social life, sleep habits and extracurricular activities.

It’s an incredible portrait of a “hosed” student body, kids who feel, at times, overwhelmed by the torrent of information coming at them and the competing, and cumulatively crushing, demands on their time. (One example: the survey found that 2:30 a.m. is the most common bedtime and 50 percent of students feel that they don’t get enough sleep.)

The Tech survey was inspired by Lydia K., an MIT junior who blogged about her own stressful “meltdown” and persistent dread that no matter how smart she was, she was never quite smart enough. The piece triggered an unprecedented response from students at MIT and around the country; MIT’s president Rafael Reif wrote an open letter to The Tech urging everyone at MIT to read Lydia’s piece.

In response, The Tech launched its project on stress: 3,191 MIT undergraduate and graduate students responded to the survey — about 29 percent of the total student population and 35 percent of the undergrads. Among its findings: “The average MIT student sleeps only about 6.5 hours a night, and 52 percent of them have, at one point, felt like they don’t belong at the Institute.” Here’s a bit of the editorial introducing the special issue:

The Institute is a tough place. The classes are hard, the homework is hard, and the tests are hard. It’s difficult to step back and get any perspective, and when things are going bad, competition between peers makes things worse. If you dare lament the amount of work you have, chances are that your neighbor will challenge you and say that he has even more.

Does this competition sound familiar? It should. The “I’m so hosed” game has become a cultural phenomenon at MIT, one that perpetuates the “hardcore” attitude Continue reading