“Financial stress, social supports, gender, and anxiety during college: A stress-buffering perspective.”

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We will explore how perceived social support affects the anxiety and financial stress in college students. For a brief summary of the article and take-home message, keep on reading and enjoy!

The Article

Tran AGTT, Lam CK, Legg E. Financial stress, social supports, gender, and anxiety during college: A stress-buffering perspective. The Counseling Psychologist. 2018; 46(7):846-869.


College students face a great amount of financial stress, including tuition, living expenses, student loan debt and the fear of not being able to find a job after graduation. Research has shown that social support is beneficial in stress management and coping strategies. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between financial stress and general anxiety and to determine if social support alleviated that stress. The General Anxiety Disorder scale, the Financial Anxiety scale, the Kinship Social Support scale and a general social support questionnaire were used to measure anxiety and perceived social support in college students. The article found that there was a link between financial stress and general stress. The higher the financial stress, the more anxiety students experienced. The study also found that perceived family support alleviated financial stress for males. This study shed light on the fact that financial stress contributes to the overall anxiety and mental health of college students. The question that must then be asked is “what can I do to support the college student in my life?

Financial Support

The following are ways in which you can financially help support the college student in your life or direct them to the appropriate resources.

  1. Health care: Some students may qualify for Medicaid. Help the college student in your life research into the requirements and help them with the application process. Each college campus has a student health center that students can use. Encourage college students to use the resources available at college. If it’s possible for the family, keep the student on the parents’ health insurance for as long as possible.
  • Food: SNAP benefits may also be available to certain students. Send your college student this link to see if they qualify. If you want to get more involved, offer to cook a meal or send them back to school with some leftovers. Buying groceries for college students is another way to directly help.
  • Scholarships and other financial assistance: Help college students look for and apply for scholarships through the school and in your local community. You might be surprised with all the opportunities for tuition help. Encourage students to attend any financial aid classes offered by the school to help manage tuition and figure out what financial aid is available to them.
  • Financial Aid in your community: There are lots of programs available to students and other people struggling. This website allows you to search within and near your area code to see all the assistance programs available. From healthcare to food to housing and transit, you can find help if you need it.
  • Setting a Budget: You can also help your college student by helping them create a budget or providing them the resources to help them set their own budget. There are numerous books about budgeting, but for the typical college student a podcast would be more realistic. Check out The Dave Ramsey Show podcast for advice on personal finance, budgeting, and more!

Emotional Support

Supporting the college student in your life does not mean that it must be financial. Some students just need an ear to listen to them when they vent about a professor or class. In this new era of virtual learning during COVID-19, mental health and emotional support are especially essential. We are all going through struggles during the pandemic and we have all had to sacrifice. Here are some tips to help support your college student’s mental health.

  1. Check in with them: Sometimes all people need is an ear to listen and someone they know they can trust. Being open and understanding with students can do more for their mental health than money can.
  • Get creative about maintaining social interactions: Have a “COVID Hour” to check-in or encourage your at-home college student to reach out to friends. There are games that can be played via Zoom, hand-write a letter to a family member or friend and send it snail mail or socially distance in a park with some friends.
  • Be kind and be patient: These college students are, unfortunately, going through a college experience that they didn’t dream of, or even want. Those who graduated college already had the luxury of in-person classes and great experiences that these students are unable to have now. Be patient with each other and be kind as students figure out college life and this new way of learning.
  • Practice self-care: Encourage the college student in your life to practice self- care, whether it’s going for a run or a walk, journaling, or trying to give themselves a manicure. Now is the time to for them to figure out what activity calms and refreshes them.
  • Be the community: With virtual classes and being at home, college students are suffering from a lack of community. There are very limited in-person experiences. No more hanging out outside of classes, no walking to the library together, no more eating lunch together. The college experience during COVID-19 is very different than what the rest of us have experienced. Be the community for your student. Get take-out once or twice a week and eat lunch together or go for a mid-day coffee run!
  • Spend time away from screens: Since we are all now depending on fast internet and reliable technology, it can be frustrating when the internet is too slow or we can’t get a program to work properly. Plan screen-less time, such as a board game night or going for a hike. Encourage your student to step away from the computer when you see them getting frustrated to pause and re-group before getting back on.


Remember that supporting college students does not necessarily have to be financial for them to feel supported and relieve some anxiety. Try to be positive as your college student heads off to college. With the global pandemic and more virtual learning than ever before, it can be helpful to be positive as students navigate through these unknown waters. Be kind to yourself and others. Everyone struggles when a life change occurs. As that saying goes “You never know what someone is going through. Be kind. Always.”

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