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Believing in your own abilities can lead to academic success

Researchers aim to help the Wellness Education Centre teach students how to cope with school stress

A student’s ability to be successful and stay enrolled in university can be hindered by many factors. University of Guelph researchers want to address and resolve this by teaching students self-efficacy, the ability to cope in situations and the belief that one can successfully overcome challenges

Prof. Andrew Papadopoulos, from the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Population Medicine, and six of his masters students worked to lower dropout rates by identifying common issues and made suggestions on how to provide skills to combat them. In order to do this, they used data collected through the National College Heath Assessment (NCHA) in consultation with The Wellness Education Centre on the U of G campus, which educates students on their health and wellbeing. 

This research used data obtained through a NCHA student health questionnaire with about 800 university students. The researchers identified six factors that individuals self-reported as detrimental - general stress, anxiety, alcohol use, problem internet use, sleep disorders and sexually transmitted infections (STI)’s.

“I want students to get as much support as possible from their school,” says Prof. Papadopoulos. “I want them to have the opportunity to produce quality work that is consistent with their abilities.”

Stress was a prevalent factor that could be experienced on its own, but was also often reported alongside any of the other six factors.

“An individual can become stressed if they have not developed internal mechanisms to process and face difficult situations,” says Papadopoulos. “This stress can develop into the other negative factors - alcohol misuse, problem internet use and sleep disorders.”

Stressed students also reported having poor coping mechanisms in demanding situations, such as exams. They typically reported that they did not have the ability to be organized in these circumstances.

Overall, students in first and second year reported one or more of the six factors more often than students in later years. This could be due to the new experience of living on their own and having to self-regulate without the help of family or teachers, suggests Papadopoulos. It may also reflect drop-out rates—struggling students may quit before they reach their upper years.

The health analysis has been sent to the Wellness Education Center where professionals can evaluate the information and investigate how current health programs can be improved. This is important to the University of Guelph, which aims to help all students succeed.

“A better understanding of these factors will allow the university to help students in their academic pursuits and guide students into successful long-term careers,” says Papadopoulos.

This project was in collaboration with the Wellness Education Centre, Dr. David Pearl, OVC Department of Population Medicine, and six masters students: Joanne Lin, Maggie McCann, Olivia Spohn, Irene Chhay, Leah van Wesenbeeck, and Tara Sagehieh.

Article by SPARK writer Sydney Pearce.