Pressures and Stressors: How To Deal

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Now that you’ve been in school a few months, you’ve successfully made some of those initial adjustments, and midterms have passed, it’s on to the next thing… right? You might be feeling a lot of pressure to decide on a major (or two or three); your friends are starting to get jobs and internships and are starting to get involved.  It seems like everyone around you is settled, has a plan, and is moving on to the next best thing.  AND obviously everyone should take 18 credits next semester, have an  internship, declare that major, and start thinking about major number two…right?

WRONG! 

We recently talked about a few college myths, but I have one last one to debunk for you. You do not need to do all these things, right now, all at once. You don’t even have to do them all during your whole time in college.

College is not a contest to see who can stick the most new things on their resume; it’s about discerning what works best for you.

Internships, second majors, minors, four year plans, jobs, clubs, and organizations are all valid and valuable pieces of the college experience and many of these together and separately may be right for different types of students. Some students might be able to take a full course schedule, balance an internship, and a job plus a leadership position or two, and that’s great. Other students might work better by focusing primarily on building strong relationships with friends, connecting with their professors, and prioritizing school work over involvement.

There are many ways of balancing college life, and although it may seem important to compile a massive list of achievements during your time at AU, it’s most important to find the best system and schedule for you individually. There’s no pressure to take on five internships, but it certainly feels like there is sometimes – especially at a place like AU, where over 90% of students have internships and jobs and leadership positions, and whatever else. But if you haven’t been able to tell yet, AU is quite a unique place.

You’re going to feel pressure in all areas of your life for the rest of your life at one time or another.  Sometimes pressures and stressors can be good for you and they can motivate you to do good things, but there are many pressures that can be very unhealthy.

Here are some unhealthy pressures and stressors that you might be experiencing this year:

Pressure to have multiple majors and multiple internships.

First of all, first year students cannot receive credit for internships, and many first year students are still figuring out how to get good grades in college classes without any additional distractions. If you still feel like you are learning the ropes of college, that is totally normal.  This pressure might be coming from your peers, it may be come from yourself, it may even be coming from your parents – but regardless of where the pressure originates, only you can decide what is right for you and as a second semester freshman. For some, an internship or a second major might not be right.

Pressure to choose a “practical major” or to choose a major period in your first year.

Let’s debunk that myth that some majors are better than others. Not so. There is value in every major and skills you can acquire from all of the majors. It is super common for students to avoid majors in the arts or humanities for fear that they are worth less in the job market than something like Economics or Biology. But choosing a major is not simply about the job you get after you graduate – that isn’t why you chose to attend a liberal arts college. You came here to get a well-rounded education and yes, it is important to think about what you want to do eventually, but mostly right now it’s important to pursue what you love (which is also what you should pursue in life).

Now, if you haven’t decided what that is quite yet, that’s okay too. General education classes are there for this purpose specifically, so you can explore until you start to feel like you’ve found your calling. So if you aren’t ready to declare a major at the end of your first year, that’s okay. Use the general education program to keep feeling things out – you still have until the end of your sophomore year to make this decision officially.

Pressure to get perfect grades.

This pressure is a grey-area pressure. This one typically comes from students, or parents, and sometimes even friends. Ultimately, we all want to thrive academically; people don’t often come to college thinking that their goal is to fail out. However, it is very normal to start freaking out about grades at the end of the semester, when those points get tallied and the finals season rears its ugly head.

But sometimes stressing too much over grades and pressuring oneself to be perfect will burn energy that could be used to learn the actual material. The time it takes you to calculate what grade you need on the final to receive an A, to get an A-, to get a B is time taken away from studying. Do your best, because it’s all you can do.

Pressure to be completely self-sufficient.

You are away from home. Maybe you are even paying your own way through college. You’re starting to cook for yourself, you make your own choices about where you study, and you don’t have a curfew. So when you start to get stressed or overwhelmed, shouldn’t you be able to handle that too?

The answer is not necessarily. College is a big transitional period and transitional periods can bring stressors we haven’t experienced before. Learning to deal with these is part of the package, but that doesn’t mean you just have to grin and bear it all by yourself. There’s no instruction manual for the perfect transition to college, but there are people who have gone through it before (like peer advisors) and there are also MANY resources available at AU to help with issues  that might arise as you settle in to a new space, place, and season of life.

Check out a throwback post, CAS Says Relax, and never be afraid to ask for help.

And finally a pressure that’s actually healthy…

Pressure to utilize resources… but really!

 Some of the most successful AU students are successful partially because they were good at asking for help when they needed it. If you need help finding the proper resource for your concerns, feel free to contact us at caspeeradvisors@american.edu.

 

 

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