8 Things That Cause College Stress (And How to Get Rid of It)

You’ve heard it before, no doubt – college years are the best years of your life! That may be true when you’re done and your last final is in the rear-view mirror. But let’s be honest – right now, you’re probably super stressed out.

The good news is you’re not the only one. College can definitely be stressful. Below are some of the most common stressors, plus some ideas on how to deal with them.

1. I need to keep my grades up...

You’re at college to learn. Or maybe you have a scholarship that depends on you maintaining a certain GPA. And while it’s true that not every piece of knowledge you acquire will come from a professor during a lecture, you need and want to get good grades.

We love to share study tips with our Twitter followers. We’ll mention some of them in this post, but this might be the single best piece of advice we’ve ever heard: Give yourself a small reward whenever you finish a section, chapter, or practice test. It can be a gummy bear, a 5-minute walk, a quick check of your Facebook feed - whatever will best motivate you.

Small rewards help you stay focused on studying.

2. But I also want to make friends.

You hear it a lot, in one form or another: “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.

Here’s the real truth of the matter: you might as well get out there and meet as many people as possible, because you never know who’s going to be a big shot some day. Well, except for this kid, who’s clearly a future CEO.

It's not what you know. It's who you know.

The real key is to know your limits. If you have three tests in two days later this week, maybe you skip this month’s meeting of the Squirrel Club (yes, that’s a thing). Networking is important, but don’t sacrifice your grades for more connections.

3. Balancing your studies and your social life

Only you know how much time you need to spend hitting the books to feel comfortable. The best advice we can give on the topic is that, if you find yourself out with friends and thinking that you should’ve spent a bit more time studying, you probably should’ve spent a lot more time studying.

4. Being low on cash

If we could give a tip on how not to be poor in college, this would be the greatest blog post ever. The truth is, college is expensive. And it’s challenging to work full-time when you’re attending school full-time as well.

The best way to save money is not to spend it. For college students, that can mean finding ways to cut down on tuition. We walked you through getting as many credit hours as possible for your past learning as a way to shave a semester or more off of your time in school. That’s a semester’s worth of tuition you’ll never need to spend.

There’s one other thing every college student should do: Look for student discounts! Most retailers and websites offer them. Not only that, your school might have agreements with local businesses – for everything from photocopies to pizza.

5. Being swamped…always!

You’re going to feel overwhelmed at some point. When you do, pull out your calendar (you have a calendar, right?) and find 20 minutes you can block off (the sooner the better).

In those 20 minutes, you’re going to:

  • List out everything you need to get done. The key is to organize your list into sections – say, everything you need to do to prepare for your Business Ethics exam, everything you need to do for dinners for the family this week, etc.
  • Look at your calendar and separate out what you have to do (like go to class or work) versus what you want to do (like go to a club meeting).
  • Sort those lists you just made the same way. What has to get done today? What can wait until tomorrow? Be realistic! Setting unreasonable expectations will only leave you more stressed when you can’t keep up.

The hardest – and truest – advice we at this blog have ever received is this: Avoid the “I just need to work harder” trap. If you respond to stress by trying to buckle down… you’re doing more harm than good.

If you’re really struggling to keep up, look at your commitments and find ways to push some of them out, even if it ruffles some feathers in the meantime. You’ll do better work, so it will all be worth it.

6. Being just another face in the crowd

For online students in particular, this can feel like a huge problem. On-campus students that don’t attend their professor’s office hours at least semi-regularly are letting opportunity pass them by. If you’re in a massive open online course, you may actually have better access to the professor than students at their home university.

Combined with local peer groups, online discussion groups, and forums, you have plenty of opportunities to engage. The key is to keep it relevant. There are a lot of students asking for your professors’ time, not to mention all the other responsibilities a professor might have outside of class. If you respect their time, your professors will be more giving of it, and will be more likely to remember you if you come to them for help.

7. Graduating without a job lined up

For better or worse, you’re not the only one with this problem. The best way to deal with it is to keep things in perspective.

Worried about your finances? Create a budget and stick to it so that you’re not running up credit card debt. Do you have no idea what you want to do today, let alone for the rest of your life? Relax. Odds are, whatever you do at your first job will have almost nothing to do with what you do at your next.

As frustrating and scary as that might sound, it can be incredibly freeing. It’s an opportunity to try out as many different things as possible. Apply for as many jobs that might interest you as you can find. Go on interviews. Reach out to people in fields you might be interested in, and build your network by asking them how they got their foot in the door.

Search to see if your school accepts DSST credits by exam.

8. But I don’t want to miss out on anything…

This is one of the toughest stressors to address, and the most dependent on your personal situation. There is no shortage of opportunities and events for most college students, and only you will know which are truly important and which just sound like fun.

Unless you’ve found a way to be in two (or five!) places at once, there’s a good chance you’re going to miss out on something. Again, the answer lies in prioritization. Look at your calendar and think about what commitments you have on deck for today. Yes, you’ll have to make sacrifices sometimes. But if you really need to study for your test in Principles of Statistics, you may have to miss out on that Cheese Club meeting.

Have some good ideas we left out for dealing with college stress? Tell us all about it on our Facebook page. And if none of this sounds familiar to you – please, tell us your secrets!

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