Rebecca Muchitch saw the opprotunity for freedom and fun when she began her freshman year in college, but she failed to anticipate the stress and intensity.

In college, stress is not easily avoided by students who have to learn to handle this stress and not flunk out of college.

“Some of the things I have seen students do that aren’t advantageous for succeeding in college include just floating through it,” said Tori Cliff, an instructor of journalism and strategic media at the University of Memphis at Lambuth. “They do not have the structure or discipline for handling the material, stress or money.”

Muchitch faced the same realization that eight in 10 college students experience in their freshman year, according to a study by the American Institute of Stress.

Cliff — who has been a staff member, professor or director at the university level since 2010 — said if students want to learn how to succeed in college, they have to get good at self-control. Having the freedom to do things does not mean they are always the right things to do. 

“When you are trying to make a decision, such as skipping class for example, you have to evaluate the consequences,” Cliff said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Could I handle the situation if this goes poorly?’”

Justin Fortune, a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee at Martin, said his struggles in college during the past five years were eating because of stress and procrastinating.

“My advice is don’t procrastinate and don’t eat when you get stressed,” Fortune said. “Instead of eating, go to the gym. Exercise is a great outlet for relieving stress.”

Other students, like Lashawn Willingham, a senior at the University of Memphis at Lambuth, agree with Fortune about procrastination. 

“I’ve learned that procrastination is a horrible thing,” said Willingham. “If you have extra time, it’s best to work ahead.”

As Cliff said, structure and self-discipline are vital. Muchitch has developed her own techniques for handling stress and avoiding procrastination by utilizing discipline and time management skills. 

“I make goals each week by writing to-do-lists,” Muchitch said. “I also make sure to enjoy other things besides school, like being with my friends, going to concerts and traveling.”

Relationships, whether they are friendly or professional, are not only support systems to help along the way, but they can also be valuable networking opportunities. 

“Mindset is everything in the middle of all the busyness and stress college brings,” Muchitch said. “I’ve learned to maintain a positive attitude, and it has kept me going.”

Another key to succeeding at the college level is attitude. Multiple students cited positivity and support from others as big factors in their college experience. 

“I’ve honestly survived my first year of college by surrounding myself with supportive people. The people you surround yourself with are very important,” said Zaylee Brown, a freshman at the University of Memphis at Lambuth.

Stress is an unavoidable part of college, but as these students have described, how you manage it can be the key to succeeding instead of failing.

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