1. Adjust:improve your study habits by talking with a prof, TA or CAPS counselor.
2. Relax: take breaks for exercise or social time between study sessions.
3. Reinforce: remind yourself why you’re in college and what you’re working towards
Source: Glenda Russell, psychologist at CU’s Counseling and Psychological Services
University of Colorado sophomore Kaitlin Jaggers has spent the last two weeks stressing over the first round of tests in her spring classes.
A little over a month into the spring semester, Jaggers said most of her teachers are preparing for the first assignment and grade of the class.
“You never know what to expect so you end up freaking yourself out even if there’s nothing to worry about,” Jaggers said.
University psychologist Glenda Russell said it’s normal and even helpful for students to feel some anxiety this early in the semester.
Whether students are anticipating the first tests and assignments of the semester or are receiving their first returned grades, Russell said a small amount of anxiety can act as a motivator to boost student success.
“There is an optimal place of anxious arousal,” Russell said. “If you don’t have any anxiety about a test you’ll probably do poorly because you won’t do the things required to do well.”
Russell said too much anxiety can act as blinders for students, overtaking their productivity.
“It’s not that anxiety is the enemy,” Russell said. “What you want is anxiety balanced with time to relax and good study skills and your own confidence based on what you’ve done in the past.”
Jaggers said it helps to remind herself that it’s mostly in her head, at least until she gets the first grade back.
“Usually I end up doing better than expected or getting what I expected,” Jaggers said. “That doesn’t stop me from stressing the next semester though.”
CU junior Drew Leadford said he doesn’t stress out too much early on but a bad grade early on can change his outlook drastically.
Leadford said in a past semester he received a bad grade on his first test in a class but by the time the grade was returned it was too late to drop a class without penalty.
“It definitely adds some stress because there were only a couple of tests in the class so I didn’t feel like I could fully recover my grade but I also couldn’t just drop the class,” Leadford said.
Each class is varied in the number of assignments and tests and the weight that each grade holds but Russell said if a student is proactive there is usually room to improve, this early in the semester.
“For most people, getting a bad grade this early in semester can be an opportunity to change what they’re doing,” Russell said. “I recommend going to talk with your professor or a TA to get ideas about how to study differently.”
The university provides multiple resources for students looking to improve their study habits and stress management. Counseling and Psychological Services hosts stress management workshops and walk-in hours with counselors who can help students create individual plans for improvement, Russell said.
Physcial activity can also help students relax, giving them a break from studying, Russell said.
CU offers meditation for stress management in the Center for Community on Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. Check the CU events calendar and the Rec Center fitness schedule for more information.
CU senior Claire Guidas said as she approaches the end of her undergraduate career, managing stress has become easier as she learns to adapt to varying professors and test formats.
“At this point I’ve pretty much got it down,” Guidas said. “I still stress about tests and things but usually it motivates me to study and it’s just a temporary thing.”
Guidas said she joined a study group this semester to help prepare for her first round of testing this spring.
“I don’t usually do that but it really helped,” Guidas said.
Besides hearing varying perspectives of material, Russell said study groups can show students that they’re not alone and that can be helpful to their anxiety levels.