Student Life

Don’t stress, you can lighten your course load

Sometimes school can be overwhelming, but you don't have to take a full course load - plan your schedule for your life!

Oct 6, 2016

My greatest enemy is time. That’s a sentiment I often feel towards my university life. When I was in high school I thought my only option was to complete my university degree in four years, and – as an indestructible 18-year-old – I figured it would be easy. Turns out, that wasn't the case for me.

My killer course load

Once I entered university, things changed dramatically. I wanted a high GPA (grade point average) because that made me feel good about myself, but taking a full course load left me feeling weak and exhausted (I wrote about my experience with depression here). I managed my first year without going too crazy, but in my second year I loaded up on so many classes that I ended up taking more than what was typically recommended as a maximum.

By November I was a wreck; I needed to drop one of my classes. In post-secondary you’re allowed to withdraw from classes before a certain deadline and you won’t be penalized (meaning it won’t damage your GPA). Sure, I ended up with an ugly “W” on my transcripts, but it seemed prettier than the inevitable “F” I would’ve received if I didn’t drop that class and failed instead.

Looking back, I don’t know how I could’ve survived my second year without dropping that class. Afterwards I felt relief like never before, because I no longer felt the need to hurry up and graduate in that expected four-year period. My perception of time spent in school started to change. I no longer felt like I was racing to the finish line.

Taking less to combat stress

Nobody has the same post-secondary learning experience. Some people pursue the same degree for six or seven years, others might take a two-year program or multiple degrees over seven years. Everybody lives a different life because everybody has different aspirations, strengths, and limitations to what they can tackle at once.

The best advice I can give to somebody considering their post-secondary options is to know your limits. Having the foresight to recognize that working 30 hours a week and taking five courses might burn you out can be very helpful when you’re planning your next step.

This realization might mean you decide to ease up and take a lighter course load because you know you have to work part time. Or, maybe you put off entering medical school another year and take some additional time to happily pursue your Bachelor of Science.

The point is, you’ve got lots of options and you’re allowed to plan your academic schedule to meet your needs. If that means taking a lighter course load to keep yourself feeling good and doing well, then that’s something you can do. At the end of the day, you are in full control of your future. As long as you’re comfortable with the decision you make, your post-secondary experience will be worthwhile.

Life lessons learned the hard way

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week and part of the reason I’m telling this story is because I learned about school-related stress the hard way, and you shouldn’t have to risk your own mental health to learn what I already know. Instead, I encourage you to learn from my experience.

I’m a person who can only tackle a few small problems at one time, and by taking less classes when I’m feeling stressed out, I can maintain my composure and perform better. Other people might choose to deal with stress differently. The main thing I hope you take away from my story is that you have options, and you are allowed to create a post-secondary plan that works for you.

Taking fewer classes is one way to reduce stress levels in school. You can read some more helpful tips in the blog posts below!


Communication Studies
Mount Royal University

I never knew what I could accomplish until I entered university and realized I held the key to my own success.

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