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Vail: Stress harms students more than bad grades ever could

By Joshua Vail
On November 10, 2010

Being a senior causes a lot of stress.

Senior core, also known as Group Problem Solving, is a class required for seniors to graduate.

Senior core involves a group of usually four seniors, representing no more than two majors, who gather together to write a paper related to a social issue.

This is a senior level capstone course. The paper is graded pretty rigorously.

The second half of the semester is a solution to that social issue. This can take two forms. One is a project that accomplishes some aspect of a solution, and one is a paper describing a solution.

The second paper and the project are also assessed in a rigorous way.

The class is five upper level credits. In short, it's hard. I'm in it and despite the fact that many aspects of the class can be fun and exciting, it generates a lot of stress.

How is this conducive to learning?

Senior year is important for a couple of reasons. One, as in senior core, a lot of capstone courses happen during senior year. These courses may help us create portfolios and similar items to take to future workplaces or graduate schools.

These courses may also determine things like special honors that can help us get that job or graduate school spot.

Senior year is also important because that's the year that people are looking for jobs and graduate school the most. It's the year when we place the most focus on what we're going to do after college.

Senior year is important because it's probably the year you're going to have the strongest memories of.

Stress causes all kinds of health problems, even in college students. And in people who start college when they're older, these affects can be amplified.

Health problems keep you from getting things done, make interviews difficult and slow down your ability to work.

For example, I spent an entire month of this semester with a bad cough that made getting anything done extremely difficult, and it's going to make this final stretch a killer.

Another result of stress is emotional problems. Emotional problems lead to the same issues of bad memories and difficulty working, especially in group work like senior core.

These things are all enhanced by lack of sleep, which combined with always seeking free food are two of the earmarks of a college student's life.

The big deal is that stress is a real problem for college students that can have real negative affects on students and their futures.

If the stress gets to me to the point that I no longer care that I learn anything, that means that the purpose of a college education has been missed. If it gets to the point that I don't care what my grade is as long as I pass, then something has gone very wrong, especially because getting good grades is not the highest goal in college.

The worst thing about stress is that it's not fixed when a missed deadline or similar issue is resolved. It's usually made worse because I'm told to "try harder."

"Trying harder" is going to cause more stress, more health issues, and more missed deadlines, which are not the highest goal in college either.

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