Let me start off by saying that I totally respect those who study 10 hours a day, every day. I respect the students who can essentially lock themselves in the library for the entire week before that chem test. And I respect the ones who absolutely freak out at a 3.9 instead of a 4.0. You go, Glen Coco.
But while these study habits and dedication to academics and success are good and admirable, I think that there is a bit of a problem with it. I feel like there is a line that can get crossed between striving to do your best and not stopping until perfection is attained. This can create the mindset of a robot; ignoring all other aspects of life and people in order to attain these lofty and occasionally impossible goals.
It’s a hazy subject, I know. I neither want to nor intend to discourage people from doing their best, but there is an extreme that can be dangerous. People don’t give themselves a break, put things in perspective, and say that “it was the best I could do.” Instead, we often focus on how much we failed and essentially focus on the negatives. This can be detrimental to our emotional, physical, and psychological well-being.
Back on the East Coast, an Ivy League student was hospitalized due to being in the library for 43 hours straight studying, and had essentially starved and dehydrated himself. Additionally, his body was shutting down because of lack of sleep.
And in a prep school in India, there have been more than 30 suicides in the past three years, and five out of every seven has been proven to be connected with exam grades or academic stress. The article about this school explained how students said things like, “the exam tomorrow was going to define me; there’s no way I could pass it and get into medical school.”
The charity Childline, whose primary service is a suicide hotline, said that numbers of exam-stress-related calls went up from 600 to more than 900 in the past year. Adrian Brown, an executive at Childline said that more and more requests have come in about how to handle academic stress and particularly post-exam stress. “Fear of failure and pressure to succeed can be immense. They don’t want to let parents, teachers, and themselves down,” Brown said.
It has also been noted lately that prescriptions for anti-depressants and focus drugs are on the rise for the under-18 crowd – another tell-tale sign that this generation might be test-obsessed.
So what are we to do? Students need to maintain a sense of academic competition in order to gain admission to graduate programs or even to do well in the undergraduate world. But what is enough? Where do we draw the line? In my ever-infinite wisdom [sic], I will suggest some tactics that may help.
1) When stressed out about a test, take a step back. How much is this test worth? Am I ignoring other things that need my
2) Take a break by studying for another course, or even to get a snack (food is important!).
3) Ask for help. It isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of brains. It means you care about how you do and that means even if you need to beg, you want to have the questions explained.
4) Talk to your professor. Especially at a school like Creighton where the classes are small and the teachers actually know us, it helps to keep an open line of communication. (Freshmen, take note: Don’t be a stranger to your teacher and then suddenly go to office hours when you failed a test – start the communication early.)
5) Don’t sacrifice sleep. I know that staying up late to study is sometimes necessary (OK, let’s be real – necessary a lot of the time,) but don’t pull all-nighters. Anything you learn from the times where you’re holding your eyelids open by force isn’t going to be even the least bit useful during the test.
I know that this article won’t make the kids that I’m talking about stop what they’re doing, and that’s fine. I understand that. But what I hope it can point out is that giving your brain and yourself a break is a healthy thing. Even if it just means forgiving yourself and moving on if you don’t do well.
Focus on the next test that’s coming your way. And rest assured, employers or grad school counselor have seen enough perfect scores that they begin to look the same. And they would probably much rather have someone who was involved in the campus community, has leadership or volunteer experience and displays good inter-personal skills with a 3.8 GPA than a library nomad with a skimpy extra-curricular resume and a 4.0.