Dealing With Competition

It’s easy to tell yourself not to worry about competing with your classmates in college, but the fact is, sometimes your tests and papers are being evaluated in relation to others. In fact, some competition is a normal part of college academics. Whether you’re naturally a competitive person or someone who dislikes being compared to others, the way academic competition unfolds in your college environment might cause you to feel stress. So how do you deal with it?

It helps to choose the right courses. It might take a semester or two to understand what classes you enjoy, what classmates you enjoy working with and what level of difficulty makes you feel challenged but not overwhelmed. Another strategy is to make friends with your classmates by joining an informal study group or finding one study buddy for sharing resources or concerns. It’s a good idea to get to know professors or teaching assistants during their office hours. Don’t wait until you’re behind on an assignment and need to request an extension. When you are focused on enjoyable and rewarding coursework, collaborative relationships with classmates, and learning from TA’s and professors, you will be less focused on competing with other students.

Time management is also critical for managing the stress of competition. The better handle you get on all the different work you need to complete, the easier it is to live with the worry related to competition. Ultimately, setting your own personal academic goals (without the influence of your classmates) and trying to meet those goals is the best thing you can do. Your competitive energy will be more focused on making yourself better and not on the people around you. Still, you’ll likely have peers who won’t be able to tame the competitive energy and unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of control over how others behave. Try to stick to your own personal plan for managing course assignments, tests and papers – try your best to do what works for you.

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