It’s “Back-to-School” Season, NOT “Back-to-Stress” Season

A picture of UC in the fall. Hey everyone – welcome back to school! Whether this is your first year at university or you are a returning UofT student, this year is bound to bring many wonderful changes. You’ll inevitably learn new information, meet new people, and experience new adventures you haven’t even thought about yet! Before I continue, allow me to formally introduce myself – I am Slesha, your new Academic Success and Equity blogger. I’m currently in my third year of computer engineering studies. I love photography, naps, and drinking tea. Also puppies … I love puppies! But you know what I really don’t love? Stressing about school. A zoomed in picture of my syllabus, with all the words blurred except "exam" and "35%" to accurately depict the panic I felt when I saw my syllabus. Often times, “back to school” feels a lot like “back to stress.” It has been just over a week since classes started, and simply seeing the deadlines and exam dates on the syllabi is enough to set off the panic alarm in my brain – and I’m sure many of you can relate. Every course seems new, difficult, and time-consuming. During times like these, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed or scared. However, it is crucial to maintain a positive outlook because being optimistic allows you to focus on reaching your goals, rather than fearing your challenges. I know maintaining a positive attitude is easier said than done. The method I use to keep a positive attitude is identifying, understanding, and mitigating the underlying causes for my stress. When I was a first year student, I entered university already petrified of the workload. I was so scared that I even asked my Frosh Leader what to do if I failed multiple courses. Then, my leader asked me a very important question: Why was I so scared of the workload which I hadn’t yet experienced? Perhaps this fear was instilled in me through the horror stories I had heard from others about university. But that’s the point! Everything I had heard about university up until that point was through someone else’s perspective. It is important to remember that everyone experiences university uniquely due to the variety of programs, courses, extra-curricular activities, learning styles, as well as other personal factors. Once this underlying cause for my stress was identified, it became so much easier to combat my fear of the workload. I could focus on setting my own goals, creating plans to achieve those goals, and working towards creating my own unique experience at the University of Toronto. For two years, goal-setting, scheduling, and prioritizing tasks have helped me effectively handle the workload (which used to terrify me). Now I am back for my third year and I know the process of setting goals and creating plans to reach those goals will be ongoing. I may slip back into negative thinking processes at times. If you are a returning student like me, it can become very easy to reflect on the bad times of the previous years and falsely predict future failures. In late August of this year, as the school year approached, I fell victim to this train of negative thinking. To combat these fears, I reminded myself that just because previous years had hardships does not mean that success is out of my reach – the previous years had successes too! I reminded myself that the best way to get over my fear of failure is to face my challenges head on. It is still early in the school year so I have plenty of time to reflect on what challenged me in the previous years, how I handled those adversities, and what strategies I will use in the future to achieve my goals. I will be using this reflective goal-setting process to ensure that my third year is more pleasant than my second year – I’ll let you know how that goes! I will be posting every Thursday so feel free to interact with my posts if you have any questions, insights, or even if you just want to share what you are going through on your academic journey. I wish you all the very best this school year!  
  • Slesha Sharma

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