Making High-Stakes Low

By: Marisa Borreggine

Campus Sherpa Blog Contributor, University of Washington

Moving from high school to college can feel like a really big deal. You know more, you feel like you’ve got to work harder on assignments and tests, and it always seems to feel like the big words “YOUR FUTURE” are hanging above everything academic you do in bright neon lights. This amount of stress and pressure can build up and make you feel incapable of doing what you need to do to succeed in your classes. Here I present some ways to make those big deals feel a little bit smaller and more doable.

Write it by hand first.

When I have a big essay or abstract to write, the one thing that calms me down is writing the whole thing out on paper beforehand. You feel like you’re allowed to make more mistakes, and you can always just scratch out what you don’t like with pen and write over it. You can mess up the paper all you want and think as you go. When you have it all written out, you have to read through it as you type it up and you can fix whatever sounds wrong!


If you have a big paper that just seems too big to tackle, think about the main points and create an outline. I like to start by just listing the main points, then organizing them in the order of how I want to address them, then writing out the intro and conclusion by hand, then putting some smaller points under the larger points.

Talk to yourself.

You’re walking into a big test, feeling super freaked out, and it maybe feels like your entire future is riding on this one moment. Sometimes we even have weeks that feel that way, but no matter what, it’s always important to remove yourself from the situation and think big picture. When I’m walking into a big final and one of my friends is freaking out, I just say, “Think about it. You and I are just two students walking into a building to regurgitate some information we definitely know onto a piece of paper. That’s it. All we can do is our best”. Remember, that’s all a test is. The best thing you can do is prepare beforehand.


Do what makes you feel ready. Pack some snacks, make your agenda for the whole quarter before the school year starts, do some deep breathing, take your flashcards with you everywhere, and have some perspective. Now, go forth! It isn’t that scary if you’re ready for it.

Need more tips on how to keep things in perspective? Read 4 Times in College When You Could Really Use Some Perspective to learn how to let go of the #littlethings.

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