By: Tim DePass
Going away to post-secondary school is a momentous time filled with enthusiasm, nervousness, and freedom. Academically, however, university or college is a whole different ball game. In high school, there is a teacher you see every day in a class of about twenty people. The teachers know you personally and can dedicate extra time to help you with your work. But in post-secondary school where classes could have three hundred people, the professor may never even know your name. If you don’t do your homework, they won’t reach out to you to see how you are doing. The responsibility of academic success is now fully on the shoulders of the student.
This increased pressure of academics, combined with an ostensibly unlimited amount of homework and readings assigned by professors, can be desolating for students. I previously wrote about useful self-care techniques for students to utilize, but what resources can students turn to when academic stress and anxiety are too overbearing?
A good initial option to seek out for support for academic anxiety is your peers. In all likelihood, your friends and classmates are going through similar fears of failure. You can ask a friend or peer about what they do to limit school stress. Or you can discuss if they have any ideas on how to organize their school life. Another effective option to use is to create study groups with friends and classmates. This way you can all help each other out with any questions or confusions you may have about your classes. Being surrounded by other students who are in a similar situation can be comforting and can help our academic growth. Bouncing ideas or worries off of one another helps limit the intense anxiety that comes with academic pressure. Joining a study group creates a team atmosphere where you are all stressing together instead of alone.
Other resources students can take advantage of are right on campus. All schools have mental health and wellness counsellors who are specifically trained in understanding the added pressures of school work. Utilizing these mental health resources are especially helpful in more extreme situations where the anxiety of school has impacted other areas of our lives. On-campus counsellors are usually free for registered students, and they offer the opportunity to talk through a range of emotional issues that may be impacting school work. Furthermore, many universities have a wellness education center that offers workshops and resources for students' well-being. Visiting your campus’ wellness center is a place to start when the anxiety of academia is overwhelming.
Lastly, every school offers a variety of resources designed specifically for academic support. Speaking with a program counselor or faculty advisor can help you design an educational plan that fits your needs and goals. There are also services that can help with writing, programs to help with test anxiety and exam stress, and learning services to develop study strategies. Academic support services are a lifeline for our educational anxiety. Their only job is to provide help that is directly related to school performance. Ranging from exam stress to anxiety about selecting courses, academic support services are always there to provide resources for student success.
Being a student can be at times downright terrifying. There is so much pressure to succeed for your future life goals. Failing a test or getting a bad mark on a paper can quickly turn to apocalyptic ruminations concerning our future: “I’ll never graduate or even if I do I’ll end up with some dead end job I don’t want.” But one exam or one paper does not define our entire future. It is also important to realize that we do not have to go through this thinking alone. When the anxiety of our educational goals starts to bubble up, it is essential that we make use of our campus resources and peers before it tears us apart.