Deadline dread: The University must be more aware of student mental health

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With deadlines and exams looming over the heads of students all over the country, the thought of revision is something a lot of students are trying to juggle with the already intense workload that comes with being in higher education. Finding a healthy balance between having an active social life alongside academic endeavours can be difficult especially during deadlines. From speaking to peers, it is clear that students are finding it difficult to open up with a lot of these issues because they feel as though others are going through the exact thing and therefore have no reason to complain; many even suffer in silence. The issue with this is that everyone has different experiences no matter what the circumstance is. For some people exams affect their mental health more than their physical. For others, it is their eating patterns that deteriorate. Although there is a lot of support available from the University in relation to mental and physical health such as the Medical Centre and Student Welfare and Support, their services often go to waste as students are not always aware of their presence on campus. Frankly, many students put the stress of academic success before their mental welfare. There are many reasons for this pressure, but one that stands out is the lack of options in ways of assessment made available by the schools in the University. As a dual honour student, it is clear to me that there is a lack of assessment flexibility depending on which school you are with. Some have a mixture of continuous assessments, while some are exam orientated. It is a recognised issue that many do not work well with written assessments, while others excel in an oral setting. It is unfortunate that our University does not offer more options in relation to assessment styles such as creative or extended projects. The introduction of said options could ease the stress on students as they can pick a path that is more effective in their individual case and plays to their unique strengths. There is definitely a greater need for module conveners to discuss not only amongst themselves but with other schools when finalising deadline dates to ensure they do not overlap and are much more spread out. We have all heard horror stories of sleepless nights when essays or reports are due all on the same day. Yes, whilst we should be encouraged to start essays as soon as possible, in reality, it can be too overwhelming. It leaves students submitting work they are not happy with. Another issue in this discussion is the lack of clarity with marking standards. For a lot of modules, the guidelines for assessments are too broad and sample essays are not provided. This leaves a level of disparity in what students should try and push for when writing their essays. Of course, not all assignments will be perfect, but no assignment should be produced under severe stress. There needs to be more conversations between staff and students in order to ensure that the mental health of students comes first especially during periods known for high levels of stress such as exams and assignment deadlines.