Counseling center offers advice to students feeling overwhelmed

Approximately one in five students has potentially debilitating anxiety about exams, and research has shown that exam-related anxiety can be so severe that it costs students a letter grade, said John Dages, associate director of the University Counseling Center.

Dages said exam anxiety has increased in recent years at GW, a trend that is being echoed nationwide. As students begin preparing for final exams and term papers, the Counseling Center is offering tips for student who may feel overwhelmed.

“This is the peak time of year for exam anxiety,” Dages said. “The end of the semester is approaching. Some students are facing the reality that they are behind, and they begin to panic about possible failure.”

The UCC has responded to an increased demand for help with exam anxiety by expanding outreach programs such as exam anxiety workshops. Last month, more than 50 students attended a presentation about how to handle exam-related stress.

“We’re really trying to find creative and innovative ways to reach students,” Dages said. “We also find that outreach tends to reduce stereotypes about Counseling Center psychologists.”

Dages said exam anxiety may come as a shock to some students, who in high school may not have felt the same degree of academic pressure.

He said 92 percent of GW students participate in at least one job, club or sport by their senior year, which can add to stress.

“I take a full course load, am an officer in my sorority, and have a 25 hour-a-week internship,” said junior Lindsay Cureton. “Sometimes, I look at my schedule and think that there just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

Pressure from parents can add to examine anxiety too, Dages said.

“For many students, the fear of disappointing their parents can be another layer of stress on top of what they are already experiencing with their classes,” Dages said.

Dages said he believes GW’s lack of vacation days in the fall contributes to exam anxiety towards the end of the semester.

The best defense against exam anxiety may be proactively seeking out help, Dages said, adding that the UCC frequently works with faculty and regularly gets referrals from professors whose students have spoken to them about anxiety.

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