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Sep 21, 2016

Managing the Stress– Notes for Helping College Students Prep for Midterms

While still early in the semester, I am already envisioning the level of stress that surfaces in the coming weeks for the first tests and those dread ‘mid-term’ exams. Yet, as usual, students seem somewhat relaxed as the tail end of the ‘beginning of the semester’ energy is still holding on. Now is the time to remind students of the need to consider stress management… before test anxiety and its cohorts are in full effect. For my students, I recommend the following to curb the inevitable stress the midterm brings:

1)      Seek support from counseling staff to confront any existing anxiety/stress. I didn’t reach out to my college’s counseling center to get help dealing with my OCD, and I regret that. Encouraging students to utilize these campus resources can help reduce or potentially eliminate long-held stress a student is burdened with.

2)      Remind students of basic study protocols. Yes, students receive advisement on study habits that lead to success, but a reminder of this strategies is something worth considering at this stage of the semester. Directing students to tutoring resources will also be helpful as tutors can help students better understand which study habits are most effective. All of this effort can have a profound impact on reducing student stress levels going into midterms.

3)      Help students with time management. Again, students often enter the Fall semester determined to manage their time better. Now is the time to check to see if they have followed through. I will often sit down with students to create a time management plan. Working with students, from my experience, helps them to better see how much time they truly have available. Yes, students often don’t stick with the full schedule/time management plan we design. However, I find they often stick to a majority of the plan, which helps them manage stress by keeping up on home work, papers and exam preparation.

4)      Sleep and relaxation. An offshoot of time management, it’s important to remind students to get in a good amount of sleep, to eat throughout the day, and time find time to unwind every single day. Yes, they need to limit time relaxing to leave time for studying, but it is necessary for students to sit back and read a book, watch an episode of their favorite tv show, or sit and have tea/coffee with a friend to catch up on things. Too often, I find students stressed because they are working full time in addition to a full time caseload of college courses. We need to remind them of the importance of taking a break.
Neil O’Donnell is a Senior EOP Counselor at Buffalo State College where he provides personal, academic and career counseling for students during and after their undergraduate journey. Neil also devotes time to educating communities about Obsessive-compulsive Disorder through discussion of his own battle with OCD. Additionally, Neil is an author of books including The Career-Minded Student and Bellwood, OCD and Me. You can find more of his career and stress management advisement at


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