Patrick Kiernan, Meaghan Conlon and Angela Sammarone make some excellent points in their editorial of April 22 (Mirror, p. 5: “Silently Stressed”). More time to consolidate information learned over the course of the semester would indeed help the overall learning process. However, does not every professor in every course give out a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, in which all the assignment due-dates are scheduled? If this is true, then students should have known in January when these stressful April assignments would be falling due. It is a sad but unavoidable fact that big research projects and papers will fall due at the end of the semester; by their very nature, they cannot fall due during the early part of the semester.

To reduce April stress therefore, (or December stress), examine your course syllabi thoroughly, at the very beginning of the semester. Note when big projects are falling due, and try to clear your calendar of other, time-consuming activities during those weeks. If you have a big research project assigned in January, get going on it right away so that it doesn’t loom up in April as an insurmountable obstacle. Stress comes largely from fear, and once you tackle a project and take the measure of it, much of that fear goes away.

So plan your semester from beginning to end. I know: easier said than done. Everybody, including me, puts stuff off amidst the flurry of day-to-day activities. But we all need to stop sacrificing the important to the immediate. We all need to budget some time, each day and each week, for our long-term goals. To do this, however, we need to be aware of those goals; we need to take note of our April commitments well before April and get ready for them ahead of time.

I write this partly because I am surprised at the frequent questions I get from students about basic facts that are stated clearly in my course syllabi (“When is the third paper due?  What day is our final exam?”). I suspect that many students just do not read syllabi, or if they do, they do not get out a calendar in January and plan their semester. Again, I’m as bad as anyone; I know I should plan my semester more effectively. Students should too.


William Abbott

Department of History

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