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The Serious Reason School Finals Week is Best for Playing With Puppies

Erica Grant, Southwestern University
Therapy dogs visited Southwestern University during Spring 2013 finals to help students relax.

Librarians are keeping late hours. Coffee shops are serving up triple-shot drinks to zombie-like customers. They’re all signs of one thing: college finals week.

The end of the semester creates an immense amount of stress on campus, which students handle with varying degrees of success. This year, area universities are providing a wider variety of services and resources to help students cope with the stress and anxiety.

In addition to the regular services offered by UT-Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center, including stress management tips for students and an online resource called Stress Recess, the university is hosting some more unorthodox events: UT Libraries partnered with the Austin Dog Alliance to bring therapy dogs to the Perry-Castañeda Library, Monday, Dec. 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Therapy dogs have also taken up residence at Southwestern University, Texas State University and St. Edward’s University. Other activities at these campuses include art therapy projects, crafts, chair massages, paper airplane contests, Lego play, yoga, midnight breakfasts served by professors and more.

Some of these activities may seem like simple fun and games, but their prevalence suggest the stress millennial college students face is different – and perhaps greater – than that of past college students.

Betsy Naylor Warren, wellness counselor and outreach specialist at Southwestern University’s Office of Counseling Services, believes students are facing higher stakes today.

“The academic expectations have increased over the past ten years,” she says. College is really expensive. A lot of people are expected to go to college, get a job afterwards, and pay back their student loans afterward.”

Jane Morgan Bost, associate director of the Center for Counseling and Mental Health at UT-Austin, believes that in addition to facing more stress than ever before, students are less equipped to handle that stress.

“I’m not sure students have learned adequate coping skills in dealing with stress,” she says. “Students today tend to be more perfectionist. I think they have a harder time rebounding, being resilient and growing from mistakes and failure. … Students put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves.”

Cuddling with a golden retriever or throwing a paper airplane provides easy, accessible and quick relief from university life today. These activities also bypass the stigma of seeking traditional counseling services. So if you see some students playing childish games, don’t scowl – they could be preparing for finals.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect UT Libraries’ involvement in the university’s therapy dog program.

Carrie Powell is a news intern covering stories for the KUT News blog. Originally hailing from Ohio, Carrie entered the world of public radio through WGTE FM 91 in Toledo. Having recently concluded a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA, Carrie is interested in news, community, and storytelling.
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