Students dialing back their academic effort to protect their mental health, survey finds 

More than one-third of U.S. college students say they are “quiet quitting” school, primarily to preserve their mental health, while one in five say their school/life balance is unhealthy, according to an online survey by, an online education magazine. The survey was conducted September 2-7 and included 1,000 mostly full-time community, public, and private college student participants between ages 18 and 24.

Related: Surge in students seeking accommodations for mental health disorders >

The quiet quitting trend typically refers to workers who have disengaged from their jobs, choosing to do only what’s required in order to find a better work/life balance, The Hill reports. Some students searching for school/life balance are similarly adopting these habits after the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted extracurricular, in-person interactions that support mental health, says career expert Stacie Haller. “As in the workforce,” Haller explains, “educational institutions are needing to address different and more significant challenges of their respective populations and their changing needs.”

Related: Colleges step up prevention and early intervention services for students facing mental health challenges >

Disengaging to prioritize mental health

Asked to estimate how much effort they put into their schoolwork, 34% of students surveyed by said they do not go above and beyond what is required.

Related: Mental health, cost concerns driving students away from higher ed, report shows >

Asked why they don’t put their full effort into school, 59% of those respondents said it would compromise their mental and/or physical health. Results from the survey also showed students ranking mental health as their highest priority, followed by good grades, physical health, relationships, and finances. 

Grades important, but eclipsed by well-being

Students are withdrawing from academic work even as they recognize that low grades could make them less employable after college. The survey found that 75% of students agreed low GPAs would make it difficult to find a job after graduation, even as 59% of respondents somewhat (45%) or strongly (14%) agreed with the statement “C’s get degrees,” a sentiment that means students can still graduate even without going above and beyond in the classroom.

The disengagement reflected in the survey is a temporary response to students’ pandemic-induced feelings of isolation and reflects a need for colleges to provide more wellness support, Haller explains. “Just getting by, whether at work or at school, is never a way to fulfillment or achieving your goals in life.”

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