For the past 25 years, the Higher Education Research Institute at uCLA has been asking a vast sample of incoming college freshmen to rate their emotional health. In the annual survey, “The American Freshman,” HERI also asks students how often they felt overwhelmed as high school seniors, to rate their “drive to achieve” and academic ability, and to report their expecta- tions for college in a wide variety of areas.
The 2010 findings tell two stories. On the one hand, over the decades, self-rated emotional health has been steadily declining. In 2010 more students rated their emotional health below average, and fewer rated it above average than ever before. Those reporting feeling frequently overwhelmed as high school seniors hit a new high (29%). Nearly one in ten expected to seek personal counseling, also a record. On the other hand, students' ratings of their drive to achieve and their academic ability have followed an opposite trajectory, moving upward over time to new levels in 2010 (75% and 70%, respec- tively). The same upward trajectory is seen with expectations for grades—66% expected to achieve at least a “B” average—and prospects for studying abroad.