Fall Break Fallout: Exploring Student Perceptions of the Impact of an Autumn Break on Stress
The mental health of post-secondary students has dominated recent discourse surrounding higher education. Accordingly, many institutions have introduced a break in the fall term, designed to support student well-being. As part of an interdisciplinary, longitudinal study examining the effects of the fall break on student stress, we held focus groups with undergraduates. We observed mixed feedback surrounding this intervention. Students appreciated the fall break as an opportunity to reduce their stress, yet they frequently reported negative impacts of the break on the timing of academic assessments and their ability to effectively manage study time. Based on extensive dialogue with students, we provide recommendations for institutions which have implemented or are considering implementing a fall break as a way to support student mental health. We aim to address the paucity of qualitative research on student stress and develop a deeper understanding of the factors driving students’ responses to stress intervention policies.