College is a stressful time for students, and one of the ways they can prepare is to make careful plans on how to study and manage their time. Research shows that students who are mindful of the amount of time they study and how they study face far less stress than those who do not pay attention to such details. In fact, just the perception of control over these factors, especially time, has been shown to improve performance and satisfaction as well as reduce tension.
For example: students, who before starting college, made a plan to study at least four hours a day earned higher grades and felt less stress during exams than students who studied only right before an exam or wrote papers at the last minute.
College has many leisure activities and other distractions that sometimes force students to complete their work at the last minute. Adrenalin can help some of them earn good grades, at least in earlier and less complex work. But careful planning to study or do homework every day provides a kind of insurance policy against stress. Of course, being mindful of study time and skills will not eliminate stress, but it can avoid the last-minute desperation that sometimes leads students to lie to professors about why their work is not complete, cheat on exams, or plagiarize homework assignments or research papers.
Although leisure activities, especially those involving physical activity, can help reduce stress in college students, these behaviors alone usually are not enough and work more effectively when combined with study skills and time management. Research published by the American Journal of Health Studies shows that time management planning “had a greater buffering effect on academic stress than leisure satisfaction activities” when only one of these strategies was used. In this study, women students had better time management behaviors than men students, but they also had more academic anxiety and stress. Men students experienced more benefit from leisure activities than women students. But those students who experienced the least stress used a combination of strategies.
Most colleges offer study skills, time management, and stress management workshops at no cost to students, and research shows that when students shape their behaviors in response to the recommendations in such sessions they can increase their sense of control and significantly reduce their stress associated with academic work.
Medical research shows that management of stress from any source improves quality of life. So, to make the most of college and earn grades up to their potential, students should take advantage of resources on campus and online to help them prepare a plan of approach to their college work.