With the semester coming to an end and finals soon approaching, stress levels begin to rise as Cosumnes River College students prepare to conquer their academic courses.
Though stress and anxiety are nothing new around finals week, students’ reasons for being under these grueling circumstances and how they manage to deal with them vary.
“During midterms and finals we see more students come in with stress management problems and inability to sleep,” said Campus Nurse Fran Koscheski.
“Some of them really fall apart. They can’t sleep. They have all kinds of headaches and anxiety disorders. Some of them have shortness of breath. It’s all physical manifestations of their stress,” she said.
For many students, finals can be daunting. Courses that are academically challenging may put students in a bind where their final, which can constitute a significant amount of their grade, will determine whether they will pass or fail.
A failing grade can create negative consequences for students, ranging from disqualifying them from continuing classes in a series, affecting their financial aid, placing them on academic probation and temporarily halting them from transferring to a university.
Viviana Rios, a 19-year-old psychology major, said that she is trying to catch up on some of her classes before she takes her finals. She said she is nervous about her math class, which she has been struggling with since the beginning of the semester.
Though she tried to drop the class, it was too late and would have resulted in a W on her transcript. With this in mind, Rios’ only option is to study and prepare for her final with the hope that she will pass the class with a good grade.
“It’s like that point of this is you either get these units you’ve been working on for four months or you don’t. The make it or break it point,” Rios said.
Another concern among students is the ability to retain the information learned in their courses. Some of the finals are cumulative, meaning that they test the student on everything that they have learned throughout the semester.
“When you’re going through the year, at most you have a test or an exam that’s over a small portion,” said 18-year-old music major Julius Field-Ridley. “It’s a different test than what you’ve been taking over the year and I think that’s where most of the stress comes from cause it’s this cumulative thing when you have been taking tests on certain sections.”
“So you have to remember things from the beginning and you have to make sure you’re still polished on the stuff in the end. And so even if you did well on the first test there’s still a pretty good chance that you’ve forgotten most of that, which is what makes it so stressful,” he said.
Others become overwhelmed with the load of classes they are taking, especially if those courses are all difficult to understand and demanding.
Silivia Mohu, a 20-year-old biological science major, said that she struggles with balancing her difficult core classes such as trigonometry and chemistry.
“When you have to balance them on the same semester it gets pretty hectic because sometimes the work from one class spills over into another day, when you have to focus on a different class,” Mohu said. “That becomes really stressful because everything is piling up.”
Aside from academic challenges, students have their off-campus responsibilities to take care of.
Whether it be from working long hours, raising kids, dealing with homelessness, having family issues or struggling financially, students are overcome with waves of stress and anxiety even before finals season has arrived.
“There is a lot of pressure for students. You have to get a major, you have to get done in two years, you have to graduate in four. All this pressure on a student. They don’t realize a student is complex nowadays,” said CRC Counselor Hoyt Fong.
A key aspect that students tend to struggle with is time management. With everything happening in their life, Fong said that students must prioritize their time in a way that supports them and prompts them to success.
“For me, I am a mother of four so it’s challenging for me to find time, at home especially, to study, to read, to prepare,” said Bekki Oribello, a 40-year-old liberal studies major.
“I tend to find more time in between my classes while I’m on campus to go to the library and read or to get my work studies done. I think my biggest struggle is time, it really is and time management I suppose. I could be doing that a little bit better.”
Many students have financial problems that force them into taking various jobs. The need for money versus the need to succeed academically can strain a student’s time and increase their levels of stress periodically through the semester.
“Personally, I don’t get any financial aid so I have to work to have enough to even pay for classes,” Rios said.
“I feel like there is a lot of people who have to work and balance school and find time to study and come to class and everything.”
Though balancing life and college can be overwhelming, there are many ways students can prevent stressful situations and reduce the stress and anxiety that they may be experiencing.
Koscheski said that time management is a major key to preventing the buildup of stress levels. She also recommends that students stay well rested, eat healthy, stay hydrated, exercise regularly, listen to music, take vitamin supplements and limit caffeine intake.
Many students participate in their favorite activity as a way to destress.
“I crochet. That’s what I do to manage my stress,” Oribello said. “It helps me to focus and relax and then I can better prepare for my studies.”
Resources on campus are another way that students can receive support for their stress and anxiety.
Students can speak with a counselor who can lend a listening ear, provide them with additional resources to cope with their issues, and recommend them, in extreme conditions, to a mental health specialist.
“Here in counseling, our number one priority is crisis, so if the students is in crisis…we drop everything for that student,” said Fong. “We have an assigned crisis counselor in the morning and afternoon, evening. So we have that five days a week.”
“Everybody has stress in their life. How you manage it and how you control it is something that has to be learned,” Koscheski said. “Everybody has their own coping skills – some are healthy, some are unhealthy.”