WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

How to Deal With Academic Stress in College and Graduate School

Tuesday | January 2, 2018 | by Candace Lei

how to deal with academic stress

A lot of people may have said to you, “We’re almost there!” especially before exams. But that may not help much. The stress is still there, deadlines are around the corner, and assignments are piling up. Hitting the library and sticking your head into your own little book castle are not fun things to do.

Studying in an American college or graduate school is not easy, no matter which major you are going to pursue. There are always tons of assignments and group projects, as well as presentations.

American colleges emphasize interactive learning, which means besides completing individual assignments, students are required to contribute to class activities, online discussions, and so on.

The list can go on and on, but I don’t want to scare any prospective students who are aspiring to go to the U.S. Having experienced the transition from college to graduate school, I can say that academic stress only goes up exponentially and never stops daunting me. Here are some tactics that I have used to get through the first semester of graduate school:

Have Someone Help You Manage Stress

It is always nice to have someone by your side to cheer you on and walk you through ups and downs. When it comes to stress, this is also the case. My friends and I always have the conversation about how we can work more efficiently so that we can pull ourselves out of studying and do something fun. We came up with a decision to study together and guard each other from being overstressed for a certain amount of study time. Once the time is up, we get to do something else. I am accountable for my friend’s stress and she is accountable for mine.

Stress Is Unavoidable, But We Can Do Something to Relieve It

Stick with your non-academic habits. Read a novel, watch a comedy, run for a couple of miles; do something that can keep your mind out of the labs or textbooks. I keep a habit of running four to five miles three times a week (a little irony: running in the winter in Boston is so much fun) and reading for 15 minutes in the middle of the day. When I feel foggy because of overworking, I take a 15-minute break, pick up a novel, and start to read.

Related Reading: Stress Management 101

Make a Smart Schedule with Clear Goals

We always hear about making a schedule to keep track of our work progress, but tailor-making a schedule that works is not easy. First of all, you have to know what kind of personality you have.

I am a forgetful person, so I have to keep a detailed schedule, which clearly outlines my goal, such as: finish 15 pages of reading in an hour. For lengthy assignments that I have no idea how long they will take, I establish a trial duration of, say, two hours. This is to test the water and the results will briefly tell me how much time I need to finish the assignment. If I can finish half of my homework in two hours, I will allocate two hours the next day to do the remaining half. Of course, I also put in a lot of fun stuff to spice up my schedule, such as exercising, reading, and visiting a museum.

Take good care of yourself, so that you can keep a bright mind every day. Best of luck!

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Candace Lei

Candace Lei is a WES Student Ambassador who is attending a U.S. graduate school.