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A map shows the outline of a city, with small black pins with a frowny face denoting places to cry.

Student-made cry maps on college campuses highlight where they have shed tears during the academic year.

Ashley Mowreader/Inside Higher Ed

Being a college student means having quite a few reasons to cry. Whether it’s academic stress, emotional angst, homesickness or just general exhaustion, students can be brought to tears.

Crying can be beneficial in a person’s overall health to release stress and emotional pain, and while crying with people can establish emotional vulnerability and create interpersonal bonds, sometimes students want to cry in their own corners.

Student newsrooms across the country have detailed students’ top go-to sob spots. For anyone in higher ed looking to pull together a crying resource of their own, here are some tips of how to make a helpful cry map.

  1. Start with students.

Solicit student feedback to understand what learners are looking for when they’re hoping to cry.

Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology polled their peers for data-based decision-making on where students cry most frequently, and they received suggestions on where on and off campus students have cried.

While most said they preferred to cry in their rooms or their bathrooms, some had specific suggestions, like late at night in lecture halls or the patio area above the Stata Center amphitheater.

  1. Include photos and visuals.

It’s not enough to identify the places on campus where students cry—a resource should also guide them to that location.

The University of North Carolina’s student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, created an interactive map that it calls the #UNCCryZone map. Created by two students using Google Maps, the map pinpoints locations for “the most advanced on-campus crying” before the end of the term.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ student paper, the Scribe, used staff photo submissions to both learn about and report on novel cry spaces and visually identify the premier crying locations.

  1. Use the map as an engagement tool.

While these students’ maps are satirical, a campus cry map can be an engagement tool for higher education professionals looking to identify student needs.

According to student publications, the most commonly identified public places to initiate a breakdown are in student unions, the library, residence halls, the dining hall or outdoor common spaces like the quad.

Understanding where students tend to cry and when can help in equipping them with coping strategies and communicating about resources available when they’re in distress.

Seeking stories from campus leaders, faculty members and staff for our Student Success focus. Share here.

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