Helping College Students Manage Stress

Many adults tend to romanticize their college years as a completely carefree time. We spent our days soaking up the sun on a campus lawn, cheering at football games and partying.

College Planners Student Planners Manage Stress

The truth is, college student stress is real. Adjusting to being away from home, feeling pressure to perform well in academics and extracurricular activities, balancing a social life, finding ways to pay for tuition…these examples are among the many that impact how it truly feels to be a college student. As a former instructor/advisor in the academic and career engagement department of a public university, I have seen firsthand just how overwhelmed and confused students can become.

Researchers have identified various tactics to keep stress in check. Coping strategies run the gamut from learning better time-management and organizational skills, to practicing relaxation techniques.

Time-management and organizational skills are key for student success across all education levels, but particularly for the newly transitioned college freshman. The college environment is drastically different than that of high school, since no one is holding their hand and guiding them every step of the way. They must become wholly independent and take responsibility for managing their own time, getting healthy amounts of sleep, attending classes, handing in assignments, preparing for exams and making themselves aware of academic requirements. Yes, there are resources that students can turn to for virtually every issue they face, but many students do not access these resources until it’s too late.

Take one college freshman, a bright student majoring in business. He had relatively good grades, a blossoming social life, terrific family support….but started skipping classes and handing work in late to his professors. Juggling a part-time job, full-time classes, basketball practice, and a girlfriend proved to be more challenging than he anticipated. He was overwhelmed by this new rigorous schedule. Unfortunately, he overlooked the college’s policy about unexcused absences, skipped too many classes, and landed on the suspension list for the spring semester. Instead of enjoying the freedom to sleep in over the Christmas holiday, he spent time brainstorming a way to tell his parents he couldn’t return after the break.

College stress is real. Students can become overwhelmed by the various moving pieces and make costly mistakes. Having an easily accessible resource that provides guidance and allows students to organize their time is a game changer.

If our business major had a tool to help him manage his assignments and keep track of important deadlines, he may have been better able to cope with the stresses of college life. A reminder about his school’s policies could also have prevented him from having to sit out an entire semester. And, if he had access to a tool that helped foster self-efficacy, he may not have felt the need to skip classes in the first place.

Custom planners that include an institution’s policies and procedures provide students with access to important information that will help them navigate college life, while still holding purpose as a functional tool for organizing their time and assignments. Students are much more likely to actually read the guidelines that govern their school if they’re all in one place and are readily accessible.

A little bit of stress is good for you. It helps boost cognitive function and makes us mentally stronger. Chronic stress, on the other hand, is very disruptive and can become a barrier to living a productive life. Keeping stress levels in check by staying organized and managing your time effectively is critical, especially for college students.