Skip to main content

University of Toronto students study before a test at the McLennan Laboratory building on Feb. 15, 2012.Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

It's exam season at universities, the most stressful time of the year, and school support centres are being deluged with requests for help from struggling students. We asked readers to share their thoughts on how schools can help students. Here are some of their responses:

Current students:

Enforce quiet time in residence. Have more study rooms - open a couple classrooms where students can go to study in a smaller place, but still in an academic setting (so as to foster and maintain focus).

Christine Mavis, University of King's College

Lower tuition costs, which are crippling student finances and are causing us to have to take on jobs, which cause more stress on top of school, just so that we can pay for school.

Jacob McGregor, University of Guelph

Universities need to put a better process together in the way they analyze a student's needs. If a student is stressed because they are unable to study for an exam, then he or she should be sent to a learning support centre to develop studying skills. Too many times students feel they can only go to counseling centres and this puts a strain on the counselors where their time should be spent with students in crisis situations.

Rebecca Williams, Ryerson University

Stop assigning 20 hours of readings, along with 15 hours of class and 20 hours of work. I don't have time to sleep and do assignments if I also have to do 4 hours of readings per class.

Kayla Callaghan, Carleton University

Drop-in sessions that last 10-15 minutes are a good way to let students vent problems and struggles immediately, and the person on the receiving end can then make a recommendation as to whether they need mental health (a psychiatrist) or casual counseling. It is important that the student feels that the centre has their best interests at heart and is not trying to blow them off.

Cassandra Thomson, McGill University

Open stress clinics that provide counselling, time management workshops, support groups, mediation/yoga and other self-help resources.

Kelvin Lau, University of British Columbia

The exam-based education system needs to be significantly reformed; studies have shown that exams are not an efficient way in which to gauge a student's knowledge. Alternatives could range from hands-on activities to informal graded discussions with the professor or with other peers.

David Suatac, University of Ottawa

I really don't think there is anything they can do. It's up to the students to bear through the tough stage of examination periods; the school has no power over how they cope. Students are given a generous Christmas break after exams. That is their time to get a sense of relief!

Harley Hudon, Wilfrid Laurier University

Universities should understand that just as professors need time to mark assignments and tests, students need time to collect themselves. Requesting a reasonable extension should not be harder than pulling teeth; profs should be responsive to the needs of their students, and be considerate of the fact that they are not the only class we have. I also believe that all institutions should adopt the concept of a reading week in both semesters.

Audrey Kyere, Humber College

Examinations are a totally ineffective way of proving that we understand the course material. Everybody knows that finals are a time for cramming. Maybe 20% of what I shove into my brain during finals is actually retained. Numerous quizzes throughout the year when we have time to actually comprehend them and absorb them would be much more effective.

Amanda Bestvater, University of Saskatchewan

Parents of university students:

Help the students plan ahead. If they study more during the courses instead of waiting until the exams come then the stress levels would be much less as they would have already addressed issues of what knowledge they are weak on.

Gord Davison, parent of a student at the Western University

Have longer terms. A university year is really only about 6 months.

Marlene Gregory, parent of a student at McGill University

There needs to be more discussion about stress, depression and mental health in the university/college classrooms - especially at this time of year. Students need to know they are not alone. Failing and not being able to keep up are powerful motivators for keeping quiet, sometimes until it's too late.

Diane Sewell, parent of a student at the University of Waterloo

University graduates:

Reduce the number of students, selecting only those that are academically "ready" to enter university. Opening up university to the masses is a wonderful sentiment, but in my experience (12 years of university, ending with an LLM (Law)) there are far too many kids in university that should not be. It's a harsh fact that not everyone is capable of doing university work. It's time to deal with this fact.

Thomas Marshall

I am a former university student with two degrees that I earned while working and paying my own tuition and living expenses. I know stress. I also worked for 10 years at a university in management. There's little that a university can or should be expected to do to address student stress. Stress is part of the learning process. If someone has a mental health issue, that's different. There isn't enough support generally for mental health issues and universities don't have the funding to fill that void in society.

Stephen Green, University of Ottawa

Students are unhappy for concrete reasons: unreasonably long commutes, financial stress, lack of job prospects etc. If universities want to help, they need to increase affordable on-campus housing, have significantly better job counseling and cheaper tuition.

Arshy Mann, University of British Columbia