Being a student is hard. It does not matter if a student has a strong grip on their organisation or not, every single student will have moments where they do not perform as strongly as they perhaps normally would. Some students are visual learners, while others learn best by going through the motions themselves. Some students are mathematically inclined, while others excel at English and literature studies. Some students work well in a timed-environment during an examination, and others earn their best marks for assessments. The simple reality is that every student is different, and one cannot expect them all to take the same tests, or do the same assignments, and average out at the rate of the students sitting in the classroom with them – it just will not happen. Much like one cannot expect a shark to run as fast as a lion on land, one cannot expect a student whose best subject is English literature to excel in a maths test. Students have different strengths, and the education sector – and all institutions that operate within it – should understand and accept this fact. While some schools do understand and value this reality, most them do not. As a result, students are made to feel under an ever-increasing amount of pressure to perform well across the board academically. Because of this self-inflicted pressure, the wellbeing of students is at continued risk. Universities and colleges must ensure that the wellbeing of students in their care is a priority.
The time leading up to examination period for any student can be both frightening and stressful. Students tend to spend most their time leading up to assessments revising, researching, studying, revising, reading, and writing. Even with all this avid preparation, some students fall short of the expectations set of them from their families and educator, and (more importantly) the expectations that they set for themselves. Students often spend so much time mentally preparing, that they quite literally forget about some of the practicalities of taking that dreaded text, or handing in that thesis. Ensuring that one is prepared for their examinations and assignments can be incredibly overwhelming. Whether it is borrowing the right course materials from the library for one’s study, or ensuring that one has access to all the required CIA exam study materials, students are constantly bombarded with the responsibility of maintaining an outpouring of information that they will be trialled and tested on (sometimes more than once). These responsibilities to one’s education can sometimes be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak, and they can send a student into a downward spiral of stress and depression.
First years especially seem to struggle with finding the balance between their family, friends, and education (and work, for those students that have jobs). As the pressure on students mounts, more and more stories come out about the mental health issues that said students face. It has become abundantly clear – especially in the last few years – that the education system is flawed. There must be more support, more outlets for student needs, and more tools available to help make students’ lives on campus and during their studies easier and more enjoyable. Students often find themselves staying up at all hours of the night studying, and their sleeping patterns are obviously affected by this need to perform well. students dealing with mental health issues need support systems and readily available tools to help them, and it is absolutely vital that universities, colleges, and schools are not only aware of the wellbeing issues of their students, but are going out of their way to aid students in the recovery of their mental health in the wake of academic stress. While there is still a ways to go, there are education institutions that are making positive changes and moving in the right direction. Some universities are even bringing out the big guns, by bringing in therapy animals to help ease the stress of examination period.
For every student, there comes a moment in their education where they falter. For some, it is assignments, and for others it is examinations that are their academic downfall. There is a lot of pressure on the students of today (and yesterday…and tomorrow) to excel in every test, every assignment. The obvious result of this pressure is that the students then add to the pressure by burning themselves out studying and working hard, stressing out about what might happen if they do not get the grade that they are so desperately working towards. Students’ wellbeing unfortunately comes into question when they do not perform to the standards set by themselves and those around them.
It is the responsibility of not only the students themselves, but the educational institutions that they learn in, to ensure that the wellbeing of the students in question is well and truly intact. It is a job that is not being executed to nearly the standard that it must be to be acceptable. Half the battle is knowing the right questions and tactics to use with students struggling with the weight of academic excellence – the other half of the battle is asking the questions and acting upon the answers when necessary. There are schools everywhere that are making positive steps in the right direction, but there is still a ways to go.