Academic pressure from family, society takes toll on students
Joel Phillips has experienced academic pressure his entire educational career.
The Management Information Systems junior attends UH on a scholarship that necessitates maintaining a high GPA, pushing him to do well in his classes to continue receiving funds.
While Phillips cites the source of his stress as internal, the effects of the academic pressure he experiences have manifested externally.
“Academic pressure has caused me to feel a lot of stress over my time in college,” Phillips said. “I have lost sleep, lost productivity, and I frequently forget to eat when I have deadlines coming up.”
Phillips is not alone in this experience.
The American College Health Association found that 51.2 percent of the students it surveyed felt that their academics were difficult to handle within the previous twelve months.
Academic pressure is formally defined as an experience in which a student is burdened by the demands of time and energy to achieve specific academic goals. This stress can come from a variety of potential sources and have a myriad of impacts on students both emotionally and academically.
“Academic pressure could be self-imposed, family imposed, or imposed by society,” LAUNCH Academic Counselor Laura Heidel said. “Academic pressure can be a positive force, causing the student to want to do well, or it could be a negative force, causing the student to have anxiety while studying, concentration problems or test anxiety.”
Students in college who experience higher-perceived academic-related stress are more likely to have lower academic achievement, according to the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth.
Phillips has personally experienced a negative impact on his academic performance due to the stress of academic pressure.
“Freshman year I wasn’t good at handling stress, and it ended up causing me to do worse in all of my classes because I put too much effort into the class that is stressing me out the most,” Phillips said. “My grades freshman year weren’t as high as I wanted because I hadn’t learned to break my tasks up into smaller segments yet.”
Developing healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough sleep, exercise and good nutrition can help students handle their academic pressure, Heidel said.
“If you put these positive inputs into your body, you will have better outputs: concentration, memory improvement and lower stress,” Heidel said.
For Phillips, he manages his academic pressure through physical activity and tutoring.
“My favorite way to deal with academic stress is to go to the rec,” Phillips said. “Being able to channel my mental stress into physical exertion has always been best for me. I have made use of academic tutoring in the past to deal with academic pressure as well.”
Surviving the Strain
Students struggling to manage academic pressure can find support through on-campus resources.
Learning Advancements for Undergraduate Cougars of Houston is a resource offered by the Undergraduate Success Center that provides peer tutoring for over 100 courses, success workshops and individual academic counseling.
“Our drop-in tutoring and group tutoring programs should help build confidence in a subject,” Heidel said. “More confidence about content and learning strategies should lead to a decrease in academic pressure.”
Counseling and Psychological Services is also a resource for students who have experienced detrimental effects to their mental health from academic pressure.
Phillips recommends that students who are going through similar struggles take the time to find studying and coping strategies that work best for them.
“If you are a freshman and haven’t found out what works for you in college yet, don’t stress,” Phillips said. “Through trial and error, you will find the way that you deal with stress best.”