Students who manage their time well are more likely to cope with the stress associated with the increased academic and co-curricular demands of school life. As students scale the academic ladder, they will inevitably encounter increased workloads in line with their higher academic status.
With this increased workload comes a degree of stress that if not handled and dealt with, can seriously affect the overall health of a student. At the heart of the stress, managing strategy is effective time management. Through planning of events to avoid last minute rashes and clashes in activities, a student can reduce his or her chances of being stressed.
The major causes of stress among high school students
One of the causes of stress among high school students and college students is the difficulty in interacting with a completely new set of students and an even larger social group within the body of the learning institution (Shaffer 925).
Whether a student is moving from junior high school to high school or from high school to college, he/she has to deal with a completely new set of people. Shaffer et al. state that, the pressure to conform to real or imagined new standards can be overwhelming for some students.
This need to belong affects nearly all students and may lead some to be withdrawn and develop stress due to a perceived lack of belonging. As students try to establish a sort of balance between making friends and exploring the different social groups available at a new learning institution, the student’s academic performance may suffer and this will likely lead to conflicts with parents and teachers.
Coping with a larger group of students and teachers, coupled with having to learn more complex academic materials can be especially difficult for students who move to a new state or immigrant students who may have difficulties in communicating with other students.
Another source of stress for students in high schools and even colleges is the increased expectations from parents or guardians. Diaz identifies the pressure to pass exams as the most significant source of stress for high school students (29). Many high school students are especially easily angered and are generally unsocial during the week preceding major exams.
One major cause of stress related to exams is the high expectation placed on students to do well in examinations. This expectation is mostly from parents. The pressure and subsequent stress can be particularly intense in students enrolled in academic programs designed for gifted students like the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
Students in these programs are expected to maintain high academic standards throughout a school term or semester, and this can be very stressful for them, especially since the expectation comes from both teachers and parents. Students who are sponsored by organizations and even well-wishers also experience more stress during exam periods since most of the time their sponsorship is pegged on maintaining a certain academic performance standard.
The increased workload associated with a higher academic level is also a major source of stress for students. According to Shannon, Niebling, and Heckert, many studies indicate an increase in stress levels for students as they move from one level of education to a higher one (312).
This can mostly be attributed to the increased workload that the students have to cope with (Ranjita and McKean 42). Further, students may be engaged in many different activities in high school and this may contribute to a workload increase that may prove hard to handle for the students. Many high school students actively engaged in a sport will have to work harder just to be at par with other students in his or her class who are not engaged in any sport or other time-demanding co-curricular activity.
Reduced physical activity has been a major factor in increased levels of stress amongst high school and college students. Spruijt-Metz states that there is a direct connection between the stress levels of high school students and their level of physical activity (180). The students who are less physically active are more likely to have higher stress levels, and vice versa.
Time management and its role in reducing stress
Effective time management is the best way of reducing or eliminating stress associated with general lack of planning among high school students. Hechuan and Yang state that, one of the reasons that high school students experience academic related stress is due to inadequate or inconsistent sleep patterns (464).
Due to various engagements, students may find themselves sleeping irregularly, or getting fewer sleep hours, which eventually harms their academic performance by affecting concentration in class. They recommend that students should plan their day effectively to ensure they get adequate (about seven hours) sleep every night.
Hechuan and Yang also state that to avoid the stress associated with impending exams, students should prepare for the exams adequately by ensuring that they set aside study time every day, and this early preparation will ensure students are relaxed and confident as exams approach (465).
Students should also plan by setting aside adequate time for doing and concluding homework every day. This ensures that the workload for each particular day is effectively dealt with and no work is carried forward to another day.
The importance of ensuring that assignments for each particular day are completed is that it helps the students keep up with the class work and this reduces the pressure of having to read substantial amounts of information (a source of stress) during exam periods due to failure to do set assignments.
Another important stress reducing activity that should be factored in a student’s daily plans should be physical activity. Workload increase is inevitable and intense reading and studying as one climbs the academic ladder is a norm rather than an exception. Therefore, to effectively deal with stress, students should be encouraged to relieve stress through engaging in physical activities, which have the added benefit of re-invigorating the body, and this makes the student feel fresh enough for further academic activities.
As shown in the foregoing discussion, time management – planning activities to fit into a specific schedule is the best way of reducing stress levels amongst students. Through time management, students will be more likely to cope with stresses associated with the increased academic and co-curricular demands of high school and college.
Students who are keen on maintaining a certain high level of academic performance will strive to manage their time effectively to ensure that they engage in any institutional activity they desire without compromising their performance standards. Stress sets in only when the involved party fails to manage the available time effectively.
Diaz, Luis. “A Study on the Effectiveness of a Stress Management Program for College Students.” Pharmacy Education 5.1 (2005): 27-31.
Hechuan, Sun, and Yang, Xiaolin. “Students’ Pressure, Time Management, and Effective Learning.” The International Journal of Educational Management 23.6 (2009): 456-460.
Ranjita, Misra, and McKean, Michelle. “College Students’ Academic Stress and Its Relation to Their Anxiety, Time Management, and Leisure Satisfaction.” American Journal of Health Studies 16.1 (2000): 41-46.
Shaffer, Emily. “Sources of Stress for Students in High School College Preparatory and General Education Programs: Group Differences and Associations with Adjustment.” Adolescence 44.176 (2009): 925-948.
Shannon, Ross, Niebling, Bradley, and Heckert, Teresa. “Sources of Stress among College Students.” College Student Journal 33.2 (1999): 311-314.
Spruijt-Metz, Donna. “Associations between Physical Activity and Perceived Stress/Hassles in College Students.” Stress & Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress 22.3 (2006): 179-188.