Research proposal: Feeling lost in life

I am sure all of us have felt stuck in a rut at some point in life, unable to figure out what to do next. And for some, this may probably still be the case. It is a topic that I have discussed with my peers countless times, and one that resonates strongly with me in my personal development. So I wanted to find out how other university students felt about this phenomenon and how it affected their personal development.

As university students turn into adults and are expected to be independent and capable of taking care of everything in life. This sudden pressure with the lack of experience creates a combo most young adults cannot deal with. (Merrill & Johnston, 2011; Turner et al., 2017)

From my twitter poll, the majority of the students (62.5%) do not seem to have a clear grasp of their future.

Two views of emerging adulthood:

Compared to people in their 20s in previous generations, people in their 20s now have one more life stage between their teenage years and young adulthood. That life stage is called “emerging adulthood.” (Arnett, 2004; Arnett, Kloep, Hendry, & Tanner, 2011;
Konstam, 2014)

University students go through two main experiences in emerging adulthood: one of exploration and opportunity (Arnett, 2004) and another of feeling lost and struggling (Smith, Christoffersen, Davidson, & Herzog, 2011). Although I will be talking about the latter, I believe finding your place in life and being on the pursuit of success plays a part in creating this void in people where they become overwhelmed with uncertainty and doubt.

University life creates a variety of stress for students: achievement in academics, bleak future and the challenge of integrating with the system and contributing. Furthermore, the students have to juggle between relationships among family and peers. Which could hinder their learning process and affect their grade (Fish & Nies, 1996; Chew-Graham, Rogers & Yassin, 2003).

Emerging adults are prone to stress due to high expectations to become an independent and capable person who is monetarily self-sufficient and doing well for themselves in their career path. But with more people getting educated, competition is high both in high-education and the workforce. Thus, creating more pressure for young adults (World Health Organization, 1994; Saipanis, 2003).

Research question: Do university students lack direction when it comes to their future path?

From all my conversations with my peers, I noticed that we were always trying to get somewhere. Earn money first, and then we will be happy. Right? Do we know what is in store for us in the future? All of our schooling felt like we were going through the motions, and after finishing our education, we just stopped having a clear direction. Got into college? Check. Got a degree? Check. Okay, now what? There is no guideline for young adults to follow as they are pushed into the real world and expected to be capable of handling everything. This piqued my interest, did any of us know what we were doing?

After going through my research, I have learnt that priorities of young adults have changed compared to the past: Just three decades ago, the average 21-year-old had been wed; had kids; done with their studies; and had landed permanent work or become a housewife. Nowadays, the average 21-year-old does not get married; have kids; look for permanent positions until they are well into their late twenties (Arnett 2004). 

Research also shows the literacy rate of people increasing rapidly compared to the past which creates more competition for the top university spots as well as job positions compared to the past (Roser, M. and Ortiz-Ospina, E. 2013). This discrepancy looks to get bigger as time goes on. I feel as if we need to discuss this topic. There is a generation of young people who are unsure of where they are going in life, even if they are in college or university.

This topic is timely because it is happening right now. The current generation faces this problem. It is relevant because it is affecting young adults and the university students who are studying in this course. I believe this topic is achievable because this issue seems to be a recurring theme among emerging adults. And my reliable coursemates have been active in helping each other out. The research will be a mix of qualitative and quantitative work with online questionnaires handed out as well as individual interviews for participants with knowledgeable answers that can further aid my research. Limitations that I might face are lack of participation from fellow coursemates as I will only know them for a year. I haven’t been introduced to them properly as well. (I haven’t even seen most of their faces!) However, I have hope in my coursemates being amazing people. And I believe this research can dig deeper and reveal more information about university students feeling lost in life.


Bird, S. (2016). Christian College Students and Emerging Adulthood: Exploring or Lost? Christian Education Journal: Research on Educational Ministry, 13(2), pp.293–314.

Ding, F. and Curtis, F. (2020). ‘I feel lost and somehow messy’: a narrative inquiry into the identity struggle of a first-year university student. Higher Education Research & Development, pp.1–15.

Metrosetter. (2012). Does the American Dream Still Include Home Ownership? [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2020].

reddit. (n.d.). r/memes – The struggles of adulthood. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2020].

Roser, M. and Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2013). Tertiary Education. Our World in Data. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2020].

Rothschild, B.J. (2018). Why stress, anxiety and feeling lost is really a celebration. [online] Medium. Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2020].

Shaikh, B., Kahloon, A., Kazmi, M., Khalid, H., Nawaz, K., Khan, N. and Khan, S. (2004). Students, Stress and Coping Strategies: A Case of Pakistani Medical School. Education for Health: Change in Learning & Practice, [online] 17(3), pp.346–353. Available at: [Accessed 15 Jul. 2019].

Sharma, P. (2020). Racing Adulthood by Balancing Work and Life. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2020].

Taylor-Hayhurst, D. (2018). Finding the right direction in life. [online] Success Factor. Available at: [Accessed 25 Sep. 2020].

Trow, M. (1988). American Higher Education. Educational Researcher, 17(3), pp.13–23.

2 thoughts on “Research proposal: Feeling lost in life

  1. I agree with feeling lost, I feel lost all the time.

    It is like solving a puzzle without the sample image, you will kind of get it when you have placed enough puzzles and made enough mistakes. It will slowly make start sense!

    Liked by 1 person

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