By Ellie Seta
While many try to relieve stress, studies show stress helps improve academic performance. Most high school students would say they are a little stressed, trying to juggle after school activities and maybe an AP class or two.
But for junior Kelley McGill this does not even begin to cover it. McGill said she suffers from academic anxiety, but with good reason. This year McGill is taking AP U.S. History, AP Literature and Composition, AP Chemistry, physics and honors pre-calculus and is a member of the competitive marching band. But contrary to popular belief, her parents are not the catalyst for McGill’s anxiety. She said it is mostly of her own doing.
“I put way too much pressure on myself,” McGill said. “My parents care about my grades but really just want me to succeed and do well.”
However while conventional wisdom might suggest students avoid putting too much pressure on themselves academically, a recent study by the Center of Learning and Teaching at Cornell University shows that academic anxiety is actually beneficial to learning. In this study, researchers concluded that although academic anxiety can interfere with concentration and memory, without it students would lack the motivation to succeed academically. But researchers also warned that a severe amount can be harmful. And it is this caveat that has caused many, like McGill, to question how much academic anxiety is too much.
According to McGill, she has always suffered from academic anxiety. But she said her anxiety has escalated tremendously since she got to high school.
“I could be taking easier classes,” McGill said. “But I like pushing myself. It can be hard and stressful but when I work hard and get a good grade to me it is all worth it.”
Along the lines of the Cornell University study suggesting that anxiety is necessary to motivate a student, interpersonal relations teacher Lila Torp said a little pressure is what provides the motivation to succeed. “Without pressure most of us would not do as much,” Torp said.
Although McGill said she realizes the benefits to succeeding, she said sometimes her anxiety gets the best of her. She said her parents are usually the ones who calm her down and help her get through a tough situation instead of adding to her pressure. She said one of the ways she tries to reduce her stress is to plan out her time better and to avoid cramming last minute for tests.
In fact, according to the same study by Cornell University, the main components of academic anxiety include, worry, emotionality, task-generated interference and study skills deficits. But for McGill, she said worry is the main factor in her anxiety.
Although one of the best ways to avoid academic anxiety, Torp said it is important to keep in mind the quality of time usage.
“It’s not just about not wasting time,” Torp said. “It is about knowing how to use your time effectively and (improving) poor study skills.”
As for McGill, she said she hopes her anxiety will improve next year, but she has her doubts.
“I know people that take similar classes as I do and are not stressed,” McGill said. “I wish I could be that way, but I can’t help it.”