Beaches in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Mexico are popular destinations for college students on spring break, but not all students use their break as a time to party and travel. For many college students, spring break is a period of rest to avoid developing burnout syndrome.
Schools such as NYU, Yale University, and Boston University Cancel Spring Break
Mid-fall, many schools such as Yale University, New York University, Boston University and the University of Arizona announced their decision to suspend spring break for 2021. Students responded to the decision with outrage.
Universities are concerned that spring break will increase the spread of COVID-19 in their schools and nationally. Their concerns are valid, but the impacts on their students are harsh.
Students voiced their feelings via emails and comments on Instagram and Twitter. Instagram user @zachmadsen2000 wrote, “Suspending spring break and instead giving students two days off, one of which most of us have because it’s a Friday, seems like the right move. At least we have virtual yoga though, stretching in front of my computer really makes up for the waste of money, professors struggling with zoom and NYU classes, and lack of in-person resources or classes for most students,” on a New York University post about the cancellation of the break.
Spring break offers students an opportunity to rest and re-energize ; it has been around since the 30’s. The common travel destination of Fort Lauderdale gained popularity from a swim meet that began in 1938, which attracted students nationally. Since then, it’s turned into a week-long break during the spring semester.
The spring semester, traditionally spanning 16 weeks of class, is too long for students to go without a break. Unlike fall, which has breaks for Thanksgiving and winter holidays, the spring semester has none aside from the designated week of spring break.
Cancelling Spring Break Contributes to Burnout Syndrome and Increases Covid-19-Related Stress
The risk of burnout syndrome in college students increases substantially by eliminating spring break. Burnout is a three-dimensional syndrome. It manifests due to emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and low professional efficacy. COVID-19 and online learning have already amplified college students’ emotional baggage; the cancellation of spring break only exacerbates this.
Students now face 16 straight weeks of classes without a break, all the while facing expectations to perform at an exceptionally high level.
In theory, college students are not going out, seeing friends, or participating in sports. Their opportunities to blow off steam, relieve stress, and take breaks from their work are already limited. In fact, many students feel their workload has increased with online school.
Professors sometimes assume that since students are not participating in their regular activities, they have increased time and capacity for additional work. While students may have more time, in reality, extra work increases their screen time and diminishes their chances of speaking with a mental health professional or relaxing.
Most students stuck at home will experience emotional exhaustion, cynicism and lowered motivation to complete their work. Burnout syndrome not only increases mental health issues, but it also affects the school performance of many students. This begs the question: what is more important, students’ mental health or their school performance?
Some schools have decided that offering students two Fridays off is an equivalent trade for their usual seven days off. The fact that many students already have Fridays off only makes this decision more frustrating for students.
Will Cancelling Spring Break Alleviate Covid-19 Numbers and Student Behavior?
From the fall semester, it’s clear that universities have very little control over student conduct during the coronavirus pandemic. People have expressed outrage at videos of students partying in clubs in Texas and Florida and the blatant disregard for social distancing. It is evident through social media, and COVID-19 hotlines that many students at universities all over the country do not follow the rules about gatherings and parties.
Cancelling spring break won’t stop the students who already weren’t following COVID-19 rules. Privileged students will still travel, participate in extracurricular activities, and visit friends. On the other hand, students who can’t afford to travel will stay stuck at home experiencing consistent stress in the same environment.