I am feeling stressed. What can I do? (And Study Tips)

Stressed? Many things happen during college life that can increase stress. Trying to balance everything – good academic performance, social life, family obligations, employment, activities, etc. – can be tough. First, understand and remember why you are here and keep reminding yourself of that (graduate, get into a desired career, self sufficient income, etc).  Second, remember you are here for yourself and not anyone else. Realizing that you choose to pursue this degree is an important factor in your success.  Your daily choices need to support that long-term choice.

Why have I chosen to be here? Your goal may be something like this: To earn a nationally accredited mechanical engineering degree at one of the nation’s top engineering universities. To obtain a position with a successful company. To be financially viable and independent in your career.  To go on to earn a graduate degree, etc.  To accomplish long-term goals, you must set supporting short term goals for yourself (exam/project performance, course grades, semester GPAs, Dean’s List, 3.0 cumulative GPA, etc) and effectively work towards them.

  • Establish personal priorities that will allow you to perform well academically and meet your goals.
    • How do the daily and weekly choices you make affect the short and long term goals you have set for yourself?
    • If your friends want you to hang out, but you’ve got homework or a test, hang out another day.
    • If you are working too many hours, evaluate your need to work or consider reduced course loads and/or additional financial aid options (loans, etc).
    • If you are involved in too many organizations (including enterprise) or a leadership position that takes away time and hurts your grades; cut involvement back, limit your hours, or postpone participation.
    • Are your expectations of the time commitments you expect from yourself realistic – especially also considering instructors’ expectations of you?
    • It is perfectly OK to graduate in 4.5 or 5 years.  How you perform and what you learn matters most, not how long it takes to earn your degree.  Employers typically don’t care how long it takes you to earn your degree.
  • Attend all your classes.
    • One of the most important factors for success in college is class attendance.
    • Don’t skip a class to catch up on sleep or to catch up in another class. This time is where you begin to learn what you need to know in order to be successful on quizzes, homework, and tests, and where you should be achieving a deeper understanding of the course material.  Feeling the “need” to skip class for these other considerations is an indication of overall poor time management or general overloading.
    • If you rely on just reading the textbook, you will miss out on important information or waste time on material that may not be included in the course.
    • However, pre-reading and previewing the assigned material before class times will make those class sessions more effective.  The text and class time go hand-in-hand to best facilitate your learning.
  • Get help when you need it.
    • If you are falling behind in any of your classes, see your instructor, a learning center coach (whenever available for appointments or walk-in), and your academic advisor.  Form study group(s), especially for upper level courses that may not have learning center assistance available.  Utilization of these resources from the very beginning of a semester can also help prevent falling behind in the first place.
    • If you are feeling undue pressure from many/all areas of your life, are overwhelmed in any one or more aspects, feeling depressed or homesick, or having difficulty coping with anything at all; see Counseling Services (see link below) right away and nip it in the bud. You have to watch out for yourself, have balance for a healthy lifestyle, and seek help if needed.
    • Also, for any difficulties with substance abuse – including alcohol – please contact Counseling Services.
    • If your grades or midterm marks are low (or if you feel they will be), see your academic advisor early and often (in your academic career, in a semester, etc).  Keep track of your estimated grades throughout each semester so you proactively realize when things are going well and when they are not, and to what degree.
  • Get your homework done (graded or ungraded), study for quizzes and exams, and work on project progress, etc as your main priority. There will be plenty of time for fun after that.  If you reverse this priority, your grades and your chance for success will suffer.  Your academics are your current full-time job and must be a top priority in your life in general in order for you to be successful.

Grades, probation, and suspension:
If you are earning/estimating low grades and/or unsatisfactory midterm marks (1st-year students), see your academic advisor early on. Once you become a student on academic probation, it can be a difficult process to get yourself back to good academic standing. If your grades do not improve and you have two bad semesters in a row (remaining an academic probation student), you may be placed on academic suspension (see FAQ #7 regarding probation and suspension).

If you feel that you are doing the best you can, approaching your academics very seriously, and utilizing resources in a systematic way, but still are unable to get good or acceptable grades, you may want to consider whether or not you are in the right major.

Resources

Career Services offers career advising.  This may be a very helpful process for you if you are considering a major change or are at least unsure of your current major.  The Career Services web site and staff also offer many other services that are helpful for job searches, being prepared for Career Fairs, Career Fair information for each semester, résumé and interview help, etc.

Counseling Services offers academic and personal counseling and can connect you to resources beyond their on-campus presence if needed. Call 906.487.2538 or go to their offices on the 3rd floor of the Administration Building to make an appointment.  Please contact them ASAP if you are feeling overwhelmed, unable to focus on homework and studying for exams, experience test anxiety, are depressed, have other anxiety, have substance abuse issues, etc. Learn new study skills, coping strategies, and how to focus on what is important to you in order to reach your personal goals.

The Wahtera Center for Student Success offers academic skills development and mentoring/coaching, especially for new students.  If you feel that you are capable of doing well and are feeling good about being at Michigan Tech, but mostly just need some direction on how to approach your studies correctly, the Center for Student Success has programs that can help.  They can also connect you with more experienced student mentors that can help you find your way here at Tech.

Student Disability Services is part of the Dean of Students (DOS) office.  If you have a diagnosed or possibly undiagnosed physical or mental condition or learning disability, please contact this office to see how to handle your specific situation according to university policies.  You should also always contact DOS if you have to document any excused absences from classes (illness/injury, death in the family, etc).

Academic Approach

When you are in tough class(es), which you are every semester – and especially if anything is not going well – do not just give up.  Seek help throughout the semester (starting right away in Week 1) and whenever you feel you need it.  See your instructors regularly and an academic advisor whenever necessary. Go to learning centers in a structured way.  Make regular weekly learning center appointments whenever possible. Even if you don’t feel you need this help, it can only improve your performance.

Homework prepares you to be successful on quizzes and exams but may not be collected and graded.  Whether it is collected and graded or not, you must do this work.  If you don’t understand how to do a problem, don’t accept that situation. See your instructor and/or a learning center coach. Do the problem over and over until you can do it yourself without error. Repetitive study – including homework – will help tremendously on exams.  As you move into the core ME curriculum, grading will become more and more based on exams, sometimes solely, so exam performance is critical to your long-term success. Take interest in your subjects. One class is a building block for another, so it is important to do well in each and strive to truly learn the material in addition to earning a good grade.

What is Repetitive Studying?  The reason that it takes a lot of time to be successful in your courses is that you need to practice and have repetition in the concepts you are learning. Just like you need to practice to improve in athletics, the same is true for academics.  By following the below steps to go through material over and over, by the time you get to the point of taking an exam, that material should be second-nature to you and easily recalled.

  • Preview material (before class, reading, any pre-quizzes, videos, Canvas, etc)
  • Attend every class and take good notes
  • Review notes and formulate questions (instructor’s office hours)
  • Complete homework/practice problems (learning center coach)
  • Work on projects/labs as applicable
  • Study for quizzes/exams

Instructors: Your instructors want you to succeed and robustly learn/retain the course material. They are not trying to trick you. Ask questions, learn how to learn and understand your contribution to the process. Explore the subject. Master the material. Instructors don’t ‘give’ grades, you earn grades. Our curriculum is challenging. Get help as soon as you need it (or before that with proactive use of resources, like learning center appointments). Know your instructor’s office hours and utilize them (or make alternate arrangements to meet with them).  If you have any difficulty in understanding any of your instructors, this is not an excuse to miss class or do poorly.  By seeing your instructor during office hours you should be able to communicate effectively one-on-one. Your instructors are experts in their fields and enjoy teaching those who want to learn.  Also, if you ever must miss class for a legitimate reason (university travel, illness/injury, death in the family, etc) please communicate this directly to your instructors; in advance whenever possible.  Also document these absences with the Dean of Students office.


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