How To Manage Back To School Stress

Despite the hours you’ve clocked in front of your laptop, television or cellphone this summer—the hours of welcome mind-numbing—September’s imminent approach mitigates their effect. Suddenly you wake from a blissful summer daze, which likely came over you about halfway through binging Netflix’s Glow, and are reminded of course selection, tuition fees and textbook rentals.

Worry not. It’s a normal part of academic life. In fact I often wonder why colleges and universities don’t schedule its approximate arrival in their respective academic calendars. Here’s my advice for harnessing-in back-to-school stress.

Back view portrait of a female student walking

Tackle back-to-school preparation in stages

Unlike assignments, you can’t start and finish back-to-school preparation in a single night. Even if you’re an online shopping whizz, who wants to pay for overnight delivery? Accept you can’t roll out of bed on the first day and walk into the lecture hall completely prepared. School supplies aside, there’s basic administrative deadlines for consideration. The Office of the Registrar is likely the only contact filling your school e-mail address’ inbox this summer. (So, yes, do check it.) Remain aware and, institutional deadlines aside, roughly schedule what, how and when you’ll prepare for the new semester the two weeks before the start of term. Do you new to load up on pens? Will you order your textbooks through Amazon instead of the bookstore this year? What about a tune-up on the bike you ride to and from campus each day?

Review your intended schedule and set goals

Like bad relationships of both the romantic and platonic varieties, it’s usually not until you’re in too deep, you realize the harmful nature of the commitment. Don’t let poor judgment lead to burnout halfway through the approaching term. Sure, sure, you’re organized, you’re hardworking, but, given the choice, do you really want a twelve-hour day every Monday and Wednesday? Depending on how much responsibility you have over your schedule, consider how manageable it is in real life versus on paper. And if the nature of your program offers less flexibility, don’t pile up on unnecessary outside commitments. As someone famous once said, “We fear the unknown.” When you have an understanding of your new term, you’re less likely to stress over it.

Give yourself over to the final days of freedom

After you’ve mulled over the impending term, let yourself return to summer. There’s no point filling the last weeks of August with induced stress. Leave that for the exam period. Stay up late, or go to bed early. Socialize as much as possible or hide in your bedroom and avoid humankind altogether. Such freedom is rarely available when class is back in session. Now while back-to-school stress is expected, it shouldn’t come in extreme doses. And, yes, given the right distractions, you should have the ability to still relax in your final weeks of summer. Manageable back-to-school stress is the price paid for the benefits post-secondary education gifts you: friendships, personal development and academic fulfillment. Should you question the existence of such gifts—or your justification for pursuing a diploma or degree in general—my snappy advice for stress management won’t suffice. Pose these questions to trustworthy family members, friends or a counselor. Nobody deserves to live under constant stress outside of or during the school year.