by Julia Salem
Picture the following: you see yourself opening up a thick textbook, ready to start re-reading the numerous amount of chapters that are going to be on that exam you have coming up. All of your class notes, white papers stained yellow with highlighter ink, stare back at you with intimidation, as if trying to remind you not to forget about them. And, as you stare at the pages of your textbook, as you move your pencil rapidly across your notebook, jotting down key terms, and answering one study question after another, you begin to think about other things: you have a phone bill coming up and your bank account is running quite low. You have to study for this exam, but you have a paper due in another class the same day. It isn’t too long before your thoughts are no longer on the exam you’re studying for, but on the many other things you must take care of. Suddenly, panic rises up inside your stomach. The words of your textbook seem to spin at an unusually high speed. You slam your face into your hands and think to yourself with such desperation, “How am I ever going to get all of this done in such a short amount of time?”
It seems like there is no end to the chaos. It seems like every time you think you’ve finally gotten a break, the reality of college runs you over with the force of a Mac truck.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? If so, you’re not alone. Many students feel quite stressed out during their time at college. The stress levels are different for each student and the reasons vary. It could be the fact that they feel like they took too much of a work load, it could be that they are not only going to school, but working full-time to help pay bills. Some college students even have children that they have to take care of. When a student enters college, they think of how much fun it’s going to be. After all, they are about to start a new chapter in their lives. They are finally being seen as independent adults, ready and willing to take on the world once they've graduated with their diplomas, and the promise of success.
What they don’t count on, however, is the desire to do any of the following: yank their hair out, bash their head against a brick wall, or gather up every single textbook, pencil, notebook and study guide sheet and toss them out the window, hoping to never see such horrors ever again. What you don’t count on, are the feelings of being stuck. The feelings of resentment as your friends get to go have a night on the town while you’re stuck in your dorm room writing a paper. The emotions you get when you ask yourself, “Is all of this even worth a college degree?” Perhaps you may even be thinking that the stress is so bad, if you could do it all over again, you never would have gone to college.
One student, Kiana Johnson, a third year Communication and Media Studies major with a concentration in Environmental Communications at Dominican University of California, describes her stress in this way, “First of all, I commute, and it takes me at least 40 minutes to get to school with no traffic, so that’s a big stress factor. With traffic, it can take me two hours to get home. I work in the East Bay so a lot of times when my classes are over, I just leave and go to work and then I leave work and do homework. It just keeps going, so that’s a big stress factor.”
Johnson is not the only student who has a job outside of her academic life. Many students hold full or part-time jobs in order to earn a little extra pocket money or pay bills.
Another student, Brian Del Grande, a senior at Dominican University majoring in Communications, talks about why college stresses him out, “I would say a huge part of that stress is from tests and huge papers.”
Another student, Colin Walker, who is majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems at San Francisco State University, has also suffered the stress levels that come with college. He says, “What causes me to get stressed out, typically, is a very large workload. It’s not necessarily the work that’s difficult, but it’s just the amount of work to do to satisfy requirements for my classes.”
Besides outside jobs, papers and huge tests, there are factors that contribute to college stress as well. They include, but are not limited to: poor organizational skills, feeling pressured to get good grades, social relationships and finances.
Any of the things mentioned above would send any college student running for the hills. And with students feeling overwhelmed, overworked and unprepared, it’s not hard to understand why so many college students drop out before they cross the finish line.
However, there is still hope. Don’t give up, and don’t give into the stress, for there are ways to combat it.
Even though you are a college student, even though you now have responsibilities and even though you made a commitment to being a student, remember that you are also a human being. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself. If, for example, you’re working on a paper and you start to feel tired, or feel like you are losing concentration, take a break. Taking a long walk is always a good idea. Not only does it help clear one’s head, it’s a good way to get some exercise.
Another way to combat stress is to master the art of organization. As tempting as it is to shove everything into one folder, and although it is the easiest way, this can often lead to headaches and it almost never works out well. Instead, have a separate folder or binder for each course and label them.
Another great way to reduce stress is to invest in a monthly planner. While some students rely on memory, this is not always the best idea. You simply cannot remember everything that is due or everything that needs to be done. Planners not only help keep you organized, they help you keep track of due dates for assignments, bills, appointments and events.
Being in college is tough. It can be both frustrating and exciting, but always remember: you are the only person who has the power to take control.