Collegebound Network

Since 1987, America's Trusted Resource on Higher Education

8 Steps to a Stress-Free Semester

Maybe it's a semester where you'll take advanced composition under the most notorious professor on campus or get stuck with two science classes and their equally demanding lab hours. Or perhaps you'll foolishly decide that a part-time job, sorority/fraternity, and an extra class are compatible. Whatever the reasons behind the stressful semester you're sure to have at some point in your future college career, there are several approaches for surviving.

1. Careful Course Planning. No matter what your high school GPA was, you're sure to come up against a grueling class once you commit to college. When you do, try not to group time-intensive classes with other demanding curriculum requirements. Lab classes, practical experience labs, and hands-on computer labs often eat up your time. Taking too many of these classes will create a demanding class schedule that's sure to tax your time and enjoyment of college life.

So whatever you do, don't overwhelm yourself! Try to pair an easy elective with a demanding core curriculum class, and go light on the number of literature-heavy courses you take at one time.

2. Make Time Management Your #1 Mission. Examine your schedule carefully. While you may not always have total control over the hours when classes are offered, you should be able to master your own time. Study on a structured, weekly basis. Avoid procrastinating just because a test isn't scheduled. Learn to take good notes and read for maximum efficiency. And make sure to study when your body and mind are up to cooperating. (Remember: A-grades very rarely mix with Z's so don't hit the books when you'd rather hit the pillow!)

3. Get Some "Study Sense." Structure your study time around a goal, and make sure it's fulfilled before you head out to play. Don't rule out alternative ways to study, either. You can organize a study group, but remember, if you hit the notes with the gang, prevent making it a social hour. Of course, it's OK to have a social schedule, just be sure to put aside time for your studies.

4. Get To Steppin'! Not only is exercise good for your body, it can up your brainpower as well. Working out can lead to healthy, life-long habits, including stress reduction and the ability to cope under pressure (not to mention it's a great opportunity to make pals!). Consider joining a team sport or an intramural activity. Schedule workouts to alleviate the stress of upcoming (and past) tests.

5. Let It Out! It's possible to vent your frustrations in a more productive manner than punching your pillow and binging on chocolate bars. It can be as simple (and as non-destructive) as venturing outside your own chaotic little world into the realm of a bigger, gentler one. Volunteer for a project that enriches your collegiate community. Get involved in a drive that helps others or participate in a workshop or seminar that teaches you a new hobby.

All of these fun, social activities are super-strategic ways to release stress and increase self-confidence. Losing yourself in other people is an instant way to feel good and can enrich your life and the lives of those who are benefiting from your involvement. Plus, it'll chill you out.

6. Save The Drama... Life can sometimes get overwhelming. It doesn't matter whether it's high school, college, or work life, things just pile up. It's up to you to take control and sort through your problems, and then find a suitable solution. All of us experience temporary setbacks but you can keep the problem in its place. Work through obstacles that arise by taking them in small steps, one at a time. Instead of crying or becoming angry, try to laugh at yourself and the predicament.

7. "Who Am I?" Reassess where you are in terms of success. You may be amazed at how much you've accomplished in one semester, one year, or even one class. Remind yourself of these feats. Part of being successful is analyzing how you solved problems and difficulties, and triumphed through disappointments to reach your goals.

8. Help Is Out There. Explore ways of getting extra help if you need it. If you're drowning in a sea of academic anxieties, ask a graduate assistant to tutor you. See if any of your friends have experienced dealing with your particular problem or check out self-help materials from the library or the Internet. And don't be afraid to consult your college's counselors; they can provide you with professional pointers.

Remember, there's always a way to squash a stressful semester before it squashes you.