Many students enter school excited about being in college. When registering, they try to sign up for classes they like and that meet their graduation and financial aid requirements. Once classes start, students map out assignment due dates and do their best to keep up with the work. In practice, however, doing quality work and turning it on time is a challenge that can easily lead to stress, especially when unforeseen events occur.
Teachers expect work to be completed on time. Students may underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete reading and writing assignments, to print out copies of their work, or to travel to school. Missing deadlines, regardless of the reason, is stressful, especially because missing work leads to falling behind. Even well-prepared students will experience stress, especially if they spend a lot of time on assignments but do not receive the grade they expected.
While many students will experience school-related stress, it is the ability to cope with the stress that matters. Some consequences of stress are mild, such as occasionally losing a few hours of sleep or skipping a meal while trying to meet a deadline. Serious negative consequences can also occur, however. Stress lowers immunity. It can cause insomnia, especially when sleep is interrupted, inconsistent, or too short. Some students try to relieve stress with drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
Stressed people get sick more often. They are more likely to overreact to small annoyances, such as waiting in line. While some stressed-out students may sleep more than usual, others may not be able to relax at all and may get only four hours per night. Feeling upset, anxious or short-tempered for no apparent reason is a stress reaction. Increases in the number and severity of allergies and asthma attacks are also related to stress.
While in school, students have to meet many different types of responsibilities. Label priorities A, B and C. Those that are an A priority are those that are worth the most points, such as studying for a mid-term exam or writing a research paper. Assignments that might be a B priority are credit/no credit work, which means students will receive credit just for turning something in. Assign a C to a friend's sudden request for help with homework.
Prevention and Solutions
There are a few things you can do to control the impact of academic stress on your life. Organize how you use your time. Schedule assignment due dates, and begin work a week in advance, an adjustment that can accommodate technological malfunctions and breaks. Remain involved with activities and people you enjoy, including exercise, family and friends. Allow time to be completely unproductive, for this allows you to recharge and reduces stress.
- The Allyn and Bacon Teaching Assistant's Handbook; Stephen Wilhoit; 2003
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