This world we’re in seems to never stop going. The sun seems to rise as quickly as the time allowed on the snooze button to an alarm clock. Our daily agendas only seem to get longer and longer with no regards to the fatigue that we are fighting as we try to complete each task. God said to rest on the seventh day, but it seems like if we rest, we only get behind for days one, two and three. Being stressed isn’t any fun. The good news is that stress can be managed, even for the college student. I have a few tips of how to maintain or neutralize stress from the academic standpoint.
How stress comes about
1) Letting classes pile up
Classes can be hectic. Trying to juggle anywhere from four to seven courses a week can surely take its toll. It seems like there’s something due every single day, and the professors tend to never let up. This isn’t high school where you used to complete a big project, paper or test, and the teacher slows down with the work load for a while. In college, when the professor is finished with test number one, you immediately start engaging in material for test number two. Then, there’s that dreadful “hell week” that everyone seems to have every semester. This is the time of the semester where you’ve got two back-to-back test on Monday, a research paper due Tuesday, a presentation on Thursday and a speech on Friday (or some workload in that regards). All of this, ironically, just happens to fall on the same week. You did not realize this until the previous Thursday, and now this weekend will be nothing but a load of assignments, from sun-up until sun-down. But here’s where you messed up:
You neglected to check your syllabus.
You also took that guideline sheet for those papers and tossed them in your backpack, never thinking to check it again. By the way, you’ve had two weeks with those guideline sheets, and you could have knocked out some of those papers a week or so ago. In regards to those tests, because you’ve waited until the weekend before to start looking at material, and no one really wants to study with you because you seem like the student that would only slow a study session down, you are stuck trying to decipher those notes that you scrambled to take. Now that you’re looking at them, you realize that you were so busy trying to write down what Dr. Frankenstein was saying, that you failed to comprehend any information. The partners for your group presentation have yet to contact you about anything, and you have no idea how you guys are going to make the presentation. Not good.
P.S.-You have 30 math problems due on Wednesday. That’s a test grade.
2) Taking on too much
Again, young adults want to have responsibility to feel like young adults. They will seek out extra-curricular activities to fulfill these needs and desires. Plus, you want to be involved with the campus, despite those five or six classes. But hey, you can manage, or at least that’s what you tell yourself.
I could use a little cash in my pocket, so let’s apply for a job in the food court. I don’t have many classes in the afternoons, so a few hours towards a check wouldn’t hurt. Intramural Sports? Maybe I should do that to keep my level of competition steady. Plus, I think there’s already a team to join.
Everybody’s pledging a social club/fraternity/sorority. Maybe I should see what’s out there and pledge this semester. I’d like to have that brotherhood/sisterhood experience before leaving school. Volunteering opportunities on weekends? Nice. It wouldn’t hurt to give back to the community.
Do you see how these things pile up? Before you know it, you don’t have any time, and it’s not because that was the ultimatum. Let us not forget why we came to college in the first place…to get a degree.
3) Terrible organization and time management skills
Yes, it sucks to have a ton of hectic classes. It’s also not good to be doing everything that can possibly be done on campus. Let’s switch to the other college-student extreme. Say you’re only taking four classes. You have Tuesdays and Thursdays off. The only extra-curricular activity you do is work as a manager for a sports team. However, even the lightest schedule can cause great stress. If you can’t map out a day to make it productive in some way, things can back up just as easily as the work-horse student, and you may find yourself doing a large quantity of low-quality work in a short time frame.
1) Stay one or two assignments ahead
Check all your class syllabuses frequently. Every professor gives you one. They leave you with the responsibility of checking assignment due dates that they’ve already predetermined, months in advance. The simplest thing to do is utilize your Friday and Saturdays. I know on Friday, the last thing you’d like to do is homework. I’m not saying spend the whole night doing work, but after class (which ends fairly early for most on MWF), head over to the library or the desk in your room, and see what you can knock out for the next week by dinner time. Saturdays are great, too. Keep the TV on if you’d like, but read a few chapters, start on a paper or look over notes. There’s no pressure to have anything done on these days because there’s no classes on the days following. Chances are you can work easier.
It’s best to do your weekly assignments early, which you’re pretty familiar with and don’t require much effort, but are vital grades. When you can avoid tedious assignments at the last minute, where your brain can’t seem to function because you’re worried about a bigger assignment, there’s less pressure. Start on papers early. The hardest part to a paper is the first page. If you can learn to do the first pages of papers in advance, it becomes smooth sailing when you sit down to write the rest of the paper. Little tidbits like doing work on weekends, starting work a week or more in advance and even turning in assignments early, are simple methods that can make a huge difference in workloads you carry throughout the week. You’ll be so far ahead sometimes, that you can afford to take a day or two off a week and just give yourself some down time.
2) Extra-curricular activities should be fulfilling to you, not just to keep you busy.
I had a sit-down with my wise god-sister earlier this year. I was telling her about all the things I was involved with and some of the things I was looking to cut. She said the most profound words to me during our discussion:
“…just because you CAN do a lot of things, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do all of them. Some things are not necessary.”
Every time I’m offered to participate in groups, events or job opportunities, I now ask myself, “Is this really something I have time for?” If the answer is no, I can politely turn it down. I only do things that work around my academic schedule, not the other way around. It’s good to be involved, but you should first analyze what you want to be involved with and how will it pertain to you. Weigh your options and make sure nothing outweighs time devoted to classes.
3) Time management…simple as that.
You know your day-to-day schedule. And if you have days that end early, don’t waste it until late at night when your tired, wanting to watch TV and not even in a state to comprehend work. Plan your days to be productive after class. Work hard early, relax later. Commit yourself to small daily goals that you can accomplish. Do things one at a time. You’ll slowly see your to-do list getting thinner and thinner by the hour.
Aside from these points, here’s a BIGGIE:
Don’t talk about everything you have to do! People intentionally try to make their lives sound more hectic then it is to other people. Why? I don’t know. I guess you sound cool if you sound busy. I’m not saying you can’t tell your best friend the workload you have coming up, but when you go around verbally telling yourself and others every little detail of work you have to do, you psych yourself out. Just take one assignment and do it. Don’t mention another assignment, but simply do the one at the top of the list. The others don’t exist until that one is done. Once it’s done, shut up about it. Making pity parties for yourself about your workload gets nothing accomplished.
Don’t let stress control you. It’s all a state of mind. You control the state.