Students stress over a lack of time

Photo By: Adam Wan
Brad Petitfils, 41, from New Orleans, oversees the Academic Success Center, formerly Onestop, as senior director of advising and academic success.

Adam Wan 

Contributor

awan@unca.edu

Pressed for time with busy schedules, students say that juggling classes, organizations, clubs and a social life can be very difficult. 

“I think society no longer arms young folk with the coping mechanisms to deal with stressors, and I think on the flipside, that students could take a more proactive role in their education,” said Katie Kitchens 33 year-old academic adviser .

Andy Stein, a 21 year-old student from New Bern, North Carolina, said he constantly stays up late due to heavy procrastination. He said the stress associated with the fast approaching due dates motivates him to finish everything on time. 

“My time management skills suck. When I do go to bed, I go to bed at four in the morning and this is a result of my busy class schedule, my RA responsibilities and organizing club events,”  Stein said. 

Stein said a senior at UNC Asheville, said he’d like to get things done earlier in the future, so that he isn’t cramming to get them done at the last minute. 

“I may get things done but it strongly affects my mood and I get aggressive for no apparent reason,” Stein said.

Students should have more time in the day, so they can get their work done and still have time for themselves, he said.  

“When dealing with stress, I think it’s important that we all schedule time for ourselves, that we look to our colleagues and peers to help with what they can and to be realistic about what we can do,” said Brad Petitfils, 41, the senior director of advising and academic success, who oversees the Academic Success Center.

With students having at least 12 academic hours, alongside club responsibilities and part-time or full-time jobs, they encounter varying amounts of stress, Petitfils said. Managing day-to-day stressors of due dates or unexpected issues and prioritizing tasks is key, he said.

“I try to prioritize the most important deadlines I have and then I block out enough time to get those things done, so I don’t schedule meetings that interrupt work,” Petitfils said. 

Students and staff say time management strategies differ from person to person.

“I am sort of connected to my calendar, I have it set up on my laptop, which I carry around with me, and on my phone,” Petitfils said.

Some people choose to keep to-do lists or notes, Petitfils uses his calendar as his to do list.

“I have all my meetings on this calendar and reminders of due dates in advance,” Petitfils said. 

“I use Google Calendar and a printed spreadsheet template to be able to see the free time in my day, this allows me to focus and best use my freetime,” Kitchens said.  

Petitfils said transitional stress can be an issue on campus for first year students. As a high school student’s day is planned for them from morning until afternoon, while a college schedule manages to become filled with gaps due to class spacing, as classes may be at completely different times of the day or the way they fall in a week, Petitfils said.

“Transitional stress also hits students hard, specifically first year students, as they might not have had to keep a calendar before,” Petitfils said.

Students aren’t used to having unstructured time between classes and the autonomy to do whatever they’d like. As a result, to fill this open space, sometimes people, especially freshmen, say yes to everything and that can get you in a lot of trouble, since too many obligations can be a burden, Petitfils said.

“I think stress is both self imposed and societal, because we perceive the people who are most rewarded are the overachievers and that we have to do more than everyone else in order to distinguish ourselves,”  Petitfils said. 

Petitfils said students need to be realistic and understand that it’s acceptable to say no to certain obligations. Classes come before extracurriculars and clubs, he said.

“It’s acceptable to say no if you’re feeling over committed,” Kitchens said.

A little stress yields good results but when you actually feel yourself hit that limit, where you’re overwhelmed, back away, the Atlanta native said.

“There is good stress too, as you’re choosing classes and to get involved in clubs, choose things that make you happy and would be the best use of your time,” Petitfils said.

According to Petitfils,  good stress would be things you’ve got to get done, but you find meaning in, do what you love, it’s cliche for a reason, because it’s true.  

“Make sure to keep time in your schedule for yourself, see making time for yourself as a priority, which not everyone does,” Petitfils said. 

People need to know what things they can do for themselves to help with stress, such as activities to promote a sense of escapism. Once including an activity in a student’s schedule becomes a habit, it’ll become routine and it’ll help with stress, he said. 

When doing school work or academic responsibilities, a separation between enjoyment and responsibility is important. The separation could happen through physical location, doing academic work in a specific locations on campus, and all other activities in places not associated with school work, Kitchens said.

“A student’s biggest priority should be their most difficult classes, because if your GPA goes down, you can end up on probation or suspension, which is difficult to recover from,” Petitfils said.

 

Students receive an academic warning when their UNC Asheville GPA falls below 2.0, their semester GPA is below 2.0, or their successful completion rate for the semester or cumulative, is less than 67%. Students on academic warning who do not earn at least a 2.25 and 70% completion ratio the following semester will be suspended, according to UNCA officials.

 

“Usually the first hint is when you miss an assignment or that you forget to turn something in or that you have a test, this could be an indication that you’re overwhelmed,” Petitfils said. 

 

Taking too many hours at once can cause a student to be overwhelmed and often times, this pressure to take so many classes can be brought on by parents pressuring their kids to finish in four years, Petitfils said. 

 

“If a student’s GPA suffers as a result of taking too many classes however, they can get into academic trouble, which results in more stress and financial aid problems,” Petitfils said.

 

According to research from William J. Knaus, licensed psychologist, it is estimated that 90% of college students procrastinate, and 25% of these students become chronic procrastinators, many who end up dropping out of college.

 

Grades do matter, Petitfils said. Good grades are key to success as a student, and a students’ work in class should reflect quality over quantity, if they aren’t getting good grades. Poor grades will severely impact your academic standing as a student in a negative way.

 

“If you get to a point where you’re talking to the teacher and it seems impossible for you to pass, it’s better to withdraw than to get a failing grade,” Petitfils said.

 

By structuring study sessions around a student’s unique attention span, students have more free time and less stress, since they’d only be working on assignments for the duration of time they could effectively focus for, Kitchens said. 

 

“I think it’s helpful because students sit for these marathon study sessions and are only really effective for a short amount of time,” she said. 

 

The focus for students should be doing well academically, exploring life outside of academics, and self care. It is also very important for students to find ways of recharging and things that allow students to reset or settle, in order to help lessen the chance of burnout, Kitchens said.

 

“To avoid burnout as students from stress and time management, be reasonable and remember to get enough sleep,” Petitfils said.

 

Seven to eight hours of sleep is ideal to properly function and is an ideal amount of sleep to deal with stress and time management, the New Orlean’s native said.

 

Students constantly have a lot of pressure on them to perform well and when they falter, it’s easy to become discouraged, Kitchens said.

 

“The stress associated with time management goes back to the larger issue, which is the lack of coping mechanisms, that several generations in a row are struggling with,” she said. 

 

The number of diagnosed anxiety disorders in the United States has spiked tremendously since 1980 with a 1,200% increase, according to the American Psychological Association.

 

A good place to start dealing with stress and time management would be to work on growth out of failure as opposed to fearing failure, Kitchens said.  

 

“I would balance school with general health and well being because you won’t be a good student if you’re exhausted all the time,” she said.

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