You think you're stressed now, kid?

Fall reading weeks don't teach students how to manage stress when time off isn't an option

As a busy student juggling two jobs, I typically welcome any offer of more time off from my commitments during the academic year, which more and more universities are considering this as an option to combat high stress levels amongst students with the addition of a fall reading week.

University of Alberta students recently voted in favour of possibly starting the fall semester a week early to compensate for having a few extra days off after Remembrance Day during their student union elections early this month, according to campus paper The Gateway. Ryerson university students may also see their fall semester shortened from 13 to 12 weeks soon, after the student senate passed a motion on Jan. 25 to give students a fall reading week starting in 2012. Other universities that have recently introduced a fall reading week include the University of Ottawa, Trent University, and the University of Toronto.

While everyone can agree that university life is stressful and most students are deserving of whatever breaks they are given, I’m not sure if implementing another reading week is necessarily the best option for lowering stress levels amongst students.

Some concerns posed at the University of Alberta over the implementation of the new reading week included the potential loss of summer income and housing complications for students, reported The Gateway.

I would think that at universities where the fall semester has simply been shortened, that could even increase stress for students if their professors are forced to condense their course schedules and have students handing in assignments at a much faster rate.

Aside from the technical problems in accommodating a fall reading week, I’m also not sure if you’re ever going to get around the fact that university education is rigorous and thus students are always going to be coping with some level of stress. Secondly, once students leave university and enter the work force, where they’ll be facing pressures a lot more serious than their grade point average, it might not be an option for them to take a week off because they’re stressed out.

I think it would be more beneficial for students in the long run if universities helped students learn better coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, rather than simply giving them more vacation time, so they can leave university knowing how to manage stress in times where taking time off isn’t an option.

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