When Picturing People in Underwear Doesn’t Work: How College Student’s Deal With Classroom Fears

Going to class isn’t as simple as our parents assume. There are exams to prepare and show up for, homework for five to seven classes to complete, and rooms of 20 or so peers staring at you during a presentation. There are many factors that add stress to students’ days, and many of them are harbored in the classroom. While many students face anxiety in the classroom, there are ways to quell the nerves and move beyond the fears.

Moyi “Pony” Jia, a lecturer of communication, has seen many anxious students in her time at the University. Jia has taught quite a few public speaking classes, a class most college students dread taking. Public speaking is definitely a topic that causes stress for many young adults in college. A way to conquer this fear is to take a course in public speaking and facing the stressor head on. Jia has seen that many students feel anxious at the beginning of the course, due to uncertainty and an unfamiliar environment.

“The anxiety gradually reduces and even goes away as they take the class and know their classmates better,” Jia explained.

Jia offers some great advice to students who struggle with speaking in front of crowds:

“See your audience as friends, they are not [here] to judge you, they are here to listen to you, and to support you! Don’t think ‘Ahh, there are so many people and they will laugh at me when I make a mistake.’ Instead, think ‘there are so many people here and they want to listen to me! They are interested in what I am saying and we will create a good conversation.”

John Maurer, a freshman communication major, explained his way of surviving public speaking, “People don’t want to hear the usual things; they want to hear your legitimate thoughts. That will make them want to listen more.”

Stephanie Merlis, a sophomore business marketing major, admitted that, “I do sometimes get anxious before a big exam or nervous right before delivering a speech in front of the class.”

Another way to avoid nerves is to be extremely well prepared. This goes for a speech, a presentation, and also for non-public speaking endeavors such as exam taking. When creating a speech, Jia exemplified how important it is to be well prepared.

“[Talk about] something you are passionate about, adapt to your audience, do research about the topic, and use specific, ‘juicy’ examples and stories.”

A common fear students face is getting called on during class and not having the correct answer.

Samantha Marella, a sophomore business marketing major, said,”I don’t like when teachers call on me when I don’t know the answer,” Even the most well prepared student can have a moment where they come up blank.

If you don’t raise your hand to answer a professor’s question, chances are you just don’t know the answer. So when teachers call on you, you’re frustrated and embarrassed.

“Sometimes I tell [my professor] after class that it’s not that I don’t like to participate; I just don’t know the answer.” Marella continued.

It can seem at times that professors will only call on you when you look like your not paying attention, just to embarrass you. This is something that stresses out many students during class.

College students have a lot to remember and balance: classes, clubs, sports, Greek organizations, and hopefully some sleep. Forgetfulness is a dangerous trait that everyone experiences at times. We write assignments and appointments and assessments in agendas, and we try to keep everything sorted in our heads as well. But sometimes, we forget things. Sometimes, we even forget to take an exam that was posted on ecampus, or maybe that just happens to me.

A blog for college students called Student Voices featured a post that summed up the forgetfulness we face at this time in our lives. The author of the post, stated,”I can count numerous times when I have forgotten my phone or keys in the library before a presentation or realized I left my passport at home as I am approaching the international border.” Even when I have gotten a lot of schoolwork done and feel like I’m in good shape, I still think that I must be forgetting something.

It seems like the answer to all of these causes of anxiety is to prepare yourself to the best of your ability. It’s not easy to deal with everything college throws at you, but we have to try our best. If you have a speech coming out, do diligent research so you will execute it confidently.

If you are faced with a tough question in class, try to frame an answer as close to accurate as possible. If you are forgetful like me, try to write down everything you need in your planner and put reminders in your phone. Surviving college is not easy, but if we get prepared and organized, we can pass with flying colors.