Impact Of Stress On Students Academic Performance Psychology Essay

The purpose of this report is to provide a discussion on stress and how it can possibly hinder students from doing the best that they can with regards to their educational journey. The literature is supportive of the fact that stress places demands on an individual, and in response to the stress, the body attempts to adapt to the stressful experience to maintain a sense of normalcy (Selye, 1974). Another common theme in the literature is that university students are faced with a unique set of stressors that may be overwhelming, this is proven to minimise their ability to cope with it. (Dziegielewski et al., 2004).

The Impact of Stress on Student’s Academic Performance

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Table of Contents


The research paper will contain information which will either prove or show no correlation between stress and the student’s ability to perform well under these stressful circumstances.


Academic performance is affected by numerous factors they could range from past events- school you come from, you previous economic conditions, your routines etc. and many upcoming event could affect it as well, such as, the new university environment, habitual changes as you would take up more schooling responsibility and you might be overwhelmed by this. The study was derived from taking into account the number of elderly and young students returning to university after being in the workforce due to having to provide for their families. This is proven to be strenuous; they have major loads of responsibilities and priorities to adhere to as well as maintaining the role of being a student. The issue of stress and stress related incidents and its direct correlation to academic performance was a motive for the research paper as well. Lastly, the long arising need for qualified, capable and healthy graduates was the core guide. We need a healthy and productive workforce, I needed to find out what the correlation between these stressors and performance are in order formulate a viable solution.

Purpose and objectives

The purpose of the paper to find out if stress-relating factors like health issues- sleep deprivation and lack of the right behaviour, social economic status, financial status, workload, life priorities or stress itself affect academic performance of undergraduate students at TSiBA Education. The objectives of the paper are to establish the relationship between student’s health and nutrition issues and academic performance. To establish the relationship between work and student life and academic performance. To establish the relationship between students deprived from sleep, decline in attendance and academic performance of these students. Lastly, to establish the direct correlation between stress and the academic performance- through students who perceive high stress levels and comparing it to their GPA.

Scope and Limitations

Hindering factor is time as we are required to complete research- through interviews, surveys, questionnaires and literature reviews in less than two weeks. We resources are limited and our library has very little of the material we need to complete my RQ. Student are hard to win-over to complete your research with as they do not want to offer up their time for free, so I have to reward them to partake in my surveys, I will now have to fork out money to compensate them. Scope is that we have an excellent lecturer who is understandable and offers his constant support throughout the researching process. This is my first time dealing with such an intense assignment and it is scary as it something I thought of and I need to find the proper answers to it, given my limited resources. I have my regular classes at university which takes up to 16-18 hours of my week and then have an additional course running in correspondence with another institution through my university which requires an additional 5 hours of my time per week. I feel as stresses and tense about completing my assignment to the best of my ability in my given amount of time. Another great fact is that after I submit my draft report I have nearly 6 weeks to complete my final report. Therefore; I believe that even in my tough schedule I will do well.

Plan of Development

My report starts out by conveying a brief synopsis of the research done. The sections it will further consist of is methods to gathering the various research, then a detailed literature review to establish premises for my hypothesis and guide the findings. Lastly I will convey the results obtained and construct my argument in the attempt of answering my research question and I will then conclude.

2.1 Participants

Forty undergraduate students at the Tertiary School in Business Administration in Pinelands, Cape Town were asked to complete a survey. Participants were recruited by asking lecturers in the different classes if I could pass the surveys out to the students just before the conclusion of the lectures. Twenty males and twenty females completed the survey.

The race amongst these students was diverse. The class standing of the 40 students’ were equally distributed, 10 HCBA’s, 10 BBA 1, 10 BBA 2, and 10 BBA 3 students. Students ranged in age from 18 to 40+. All forty students are full-time students; they take up approximately 12 to 18 hours of class a week in a semester. The students who complete the survey will not be given credit to apply towards any class, it is totally voluntarily.

2.2 Design

The purpose of this study is to identify if there is a correlation between the stress that students perceive they are under, and their obtained GPA’s (Grade Point Average). Taking into account that students may not be under the same amount of stress every semester, the survey is designed to be answered as it applies to the previous semester of university, June 2012. If my hypothesis deems to be correct, there will be a negative correlation between the amount of stress perceived by the student and that student’s GPA during that same semester at school. In addition to adding another factor to the stress that a student perceives, I want to find out what the three main reasons they perceive themselves to be under either a lot of stress, or little at all.

2.3 Materials
2.3.1 Perceived Stress Scale.

In order for me to evaluate the amount of stress that students perceive to be under, I will make use of the Perceived Stress Scale, developed by Cohen and Mermeistein in 1983 (see Appendix A for Perceived Stress Scale). The Perceived Stress Scale compromises of a fourteen-item scale that asks the participant to answer a range of questions as they relate to them in the last month. I edited the survey by adding in the words, during last semester, to be able to evaluate the student’s level of perceived stress at that point in time. The method of answering the questions is a scale format with answers ranging from 0 being an answer of never to 4 being an answer of very often. The scale produces a single score and a higher score indicates a greater level of perceived stress, with items 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, being reversed scored. The Perceived Stress Scale has been shown to be reliable and to measure only the amount of stress, autonomous of other paradigms like depression.

2.3.2 Demographic Data Sheet.

Students will be required to report information about themselves to control for insignificant variables. The sheet asks questions such as their genders, ages, races. Students will also be asked to answer questions about their course load and class standing. (see Appendix B for demographic data sheet).

2.3.3 Stress Factors Survey

The students will be asked to report the classes that they took during the semester of June 2012 and any marks that they received. There is a list of reasons that could have contributed to their GPA; these reasons were drawn out from what was reviewed in the literature (see Appendix C for stress factors survey). The students will be asked to report their three main reasons as to why they received the marks that they earlier reported.

2.4 Procedures

Forty students at the Tertiary School in Business Administration in Pinelands, Cape Town will be approached by me and asked if they could take ten minutes and fill out a survey. The students will first be asked to read and sign a consent form to reinforce confidentiality (see Appendix D for informed consent form). The signed consent forms will be placed into an envelope so the names of each of the students remain confidential. The students will be given sheets of paper attached together; the first paper is the Perceived Stress Scale. The next sheet of paper consists of a series of questions pertaining to their gender, age, race, and class standing (HCBA, BBA1, BBA2 or BBA3). Following that they will be required to list every class they had and the grades they had received for it.

Lastly, the students will be presented with a list of possible stressors or could rather be seen as reasons they had obtained those marks last semester for their courses. I will facilitate the process and read through the directions with them carefully and ask of them to answer the questions as honestly as possible. I will continuously make it clear to them that their answers will be completely confidential and that their names and details could not be matched with their answers.

Each group of participants will be tested under the same conditions, in classrooms on campus. They will be asked to complete the survey in a classroom that they are very familiar with, as they have their regular classes in these rooms and feel comfortable in the room. The lighting in all of these classrooms is compact fluorescent bulbs, and the temperature is controllable and kept comfortable by the users of the room. The noise level in the classrooms is one minor factor that I am not able to control. Since the noise level in the classroom will not exceed normal conversation levels, therefore; I believe it should not have an impact on the results obtained from the surveys.

After the student’s complete the Perceived Stress Scale and fills out the rest of the survey, I will reward them with a chocolate bar as a token of my appreciation and thank them for helping me with my assignment. I will also use the platform to obtain feedback by asking them what they thought of the process and allow for recommendations. I will then again assure them that the information I collected would remain confidential, so they should not worry about their marks being used for anything else other than the completion of my assignment.

3.1 Introduction

Key words: Academic, University Students, Stress, Performance

Stress is a common and inevitable component in the lives of every individual, regardless of race or cultural background (Newth, 2011). Over the past few decades, there has been significant investigation on the issues of stress and management of stress (Dziegielewski, Turnage & RoestMarti, 2004). In addition, university students have shown to possess a unique set of stressors which can affect their everyday experiences (Hall, 2005). The focus of this report is on stress and how it can affect academic performance. We’ve all experienced it. We can probably describe what it feels like. But, just what is stress? (Newth 2011) makes use of his first complex definition that stress is “an applied force or systems forces that tends to strain or deform a body” and his easy to understand definition that reads “it is a feeling of not being in control”. In essence stress could be described as the pressure or demands placed upon us and how we respond to those pressures.

“The background to modern day stress issues seems to be more widespread than ever and many of the reasons as to why these exist are quite obvious such as more work by less people, financial uncertainty, job insecurity, constant demands for high performance, the increase requirement for information, impossible targets, juggling part-time or full-time work and life/family priorities/children, health issues, the downsides of cyberspace and technology, time management, sleep deprivation, social activities, the depressing state of affairs in many parts of the world and much more besides” (Newth: 11). He also adds that another reason suggested as we know so much about the subject that some suggest it “encourages unhealthy circumspection” (Newth: 11). He further questions the theory by asking could these stress arise due to the fault of other people on an individual.

Some of his results from the volunteers were:

When others set unrealistic deadlines for them

The state of the bedroom caused by others

People who does not call back to convey information

Traffic on their way to work or school

Superior ignores them

Others chatting around when everyone is supposed to be busy

People who do not seem to care

Meetings that go on forever

People that hold up the lines at the check-out

Group members who do not do their part

These responses have proven that people directly or indirectly link their stressors to other people. The one thing that many forget is that it is life, and it is inevitable. There are certain things we simply cannot change. Another key aspect in the volunteers is that they are the ones who are more stressed than and is not dealing well with it- in order to overcome it we need to be aware of it and deal with the fact that it happened and you have to tolerate it to management it. (Newth, 2011) has stated that as demands are made on an individual or as we encounter situations, the body attempts to adjust or adapt to the situation in order to re-establish normality. Looking at (Selye, 1974) he further suggests on the basis of Newth’s research that there are a series of physiological reactions that occurs in response to demands. Some familiar health reactions to demands made on the body include increased heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and blood glucose level. These compensatory reactions occur to ensure the muscles and vital organs have an ample supply of oxygen, energy and nutrients to handle the challenging situation (Selye, 1974). In addition, (Nathan, 2002) also states that prolonged and severe stress may be psychologically damaging in that it may hinder a person’s ability to engage in effective behaviour and instead the person might end up distancing and worst case scenario- not engage or be present at all. Another view of the effect of stress on the body was presented by Lazarus and Folkman (1984), in that they state stress is more than a response to environmental demands, but is also related to personal perception. If an individual perceives a situation as stressful, then it is indeed stressful. All in all, when multiple demands are made on an individual, they usually experience intense feelings of stress (Dziegielewski et al., 2004).

3.2 Stresses related to Health Issues and Physical Conditions

There are also a number of health-related factors that can contribute to a student’s academic performance, and therefore have an effect the student’s GPA. The amount of exercise, nutritional routines, and also the amount of social support the student perceives all can contribute to how a student academically performs (Hammer et al, 1998). Exercising too much or not at all can influence academic performance. Sacrificing time from your normal amount of study hours to work-out pulls away from grades. A frequent incident on university is students becoming almost addicted to exercise, turning a healthy behavior into one that is psychologically unhealthy. In a study in 2000 Trockel, Barnes, and Egget found “That students who exercised seven or more hours a week obtained significantly lower grades than students who exercised six or fewer hours weekly or not at all” (p. 126). Nutrition is also a problem with university students. Students may have difficulty finding the time to cook adequate meals. Most students are just learning to live on their own, and learning to cook can be a real challenge, given that many of them might have no experience in the kitchen. Finding time to go to the grocery store once a week during your busy schedule ay university can prove to be a demanding task. Little storage space is available in the average dorm room, and food storage and hygiene facilities may not be possible at all (Trockel et al, 2000).

3.3 Stresses from Life Priorities
3.3.1 Employment as a Student

Many students have part-time or full-time employment and it has been proven that the more time spent at work, the less time a student spends studying. Having to maintain a job and still be a university student is a constant source of stress (Calderon, Hey, & Seabert, 2001). Also proven to be mentally strenuous is managing the two roles of workplace and university student can itself be stressful. Finding the time to work a full or part time job and take it as seriously, and also stand your guard and maintain focus on academic studies can be perceived as stressful. Being exhausted from working the night before can cause a poor attendance record and also give a student less time to study, which ultimately results in a poor academic performance.

3.3.2 Sleep Deprivation

My study takes into account previous research done in the area of sleep, not just on university students but also on the overall population. Kelly, Kelly, and Clanton (2001) “classified sleepers into three categories. 1) Short sleepers, individuals who, when left to set their own schedule, slept six or fewer hours. 2) Average sleepers, individuals who slept seven or eight hours, and 3) long sleepers, individuals who slept nine or more hours out of twenty-four” (p. 84). The study established that people who were considered to be long sleepers reported higher GPAs.

One thing that my study will not take into account is that of some past research on sleep which suggests that people who sleep fewer hours a night may have psychological instability. Sleeping shorter amounts of time has shown to increase factors such as anxiety and stress, which have been associated with academic performance (Kelly et al, 2001). These factors cause students problems by causing shortened attention span and also increasing the number of errors students make on tests.

Another study took the hours of sleep correlation with GPA to another level by taking factors into account like amount of sleep a student gets on the weekends in conjunction to their amount of sleep during the week, as well as the average time a student gets up in the morning during the week, and waking-up time on the weekends. Trockel, Barnes, and Egget (2000) found that variables such as later weekday wake-up and later weekend wake-up times were associated with a lower GPA. This study seems to take the research from previous study further, by asking questions specifically related to when the sleep is obtained and what time of the morning a student wakes up.

3.3.3 Absence in Attendance and Participation

Another health-related factor that can influence student’s GPA is class attendance. Attendance itself can be related to stress factors like insufficient sleep, job responsibility, illness and also having a family or children to care for. Having a class at eight in the morning can be a major problem for students who are deprived of sleep, more importantly for those students who attend classes during the day and work at night.

Students who have children to take care of can often find themselves being held out of class for reasons like their children being ill or not having the proper child care available. Grades, motivation and prior GPA can also be reasons for class attendance (Devadoss & Foltz, 1996). With attendance having a major influence on academic performance, even to the point of most lecturers using it as a requirement to pass a course, it is an important indicator of a student’s overall obtained GPA. One major prediction of class attendance is a student’s GPA prior to registering for the class. Students who have done better in previous courses are likely to attend classes more often than those opposite of their status. Other factors in class attendance include the level of courses the student is taking. On average, junior and senior level courses have a higher attendance record than freshman and sophomore courses (Devadoss & Foltz, 1996). One finding that is contradictory to other studies is that students who work and are financially independent are encouraged to and will attend classes and take their education more seriously. This could be the case with students who pay more for their education themselves, as they will find lots of value in it, as that of someone who is not paying a cent and takes the free education for granted or just cannot give their dedication due to their driving principles.

3.4 Conclusion

There are many factors that can cause stress and influence a student’s academic performance and therefore affect their overall GPA. The factors include exercise, nutrition, sleep, and work and class attendance. A university student may find him or herself in a difficult balancing position, trying to support a family, taking care of job responsibilities, and simultaneously trying to do their best at their university career. All of these factors can affect the marks of students, which in due course affects the rest of their lives.

All of the factors that have been reviewed in the literature can contribute to a university student’s level of stress.

By themselves these constraints may have no effect at all on a student, but when combined, a student could perceive them as very stressful, and the stress factors could have a intense effect on a student’s academic performance. With too many stress factors present and with limited resources of time and energy, a student could easily become overwhelmed. What one student perceives as stressful may not be a factor of stress at all for another student. The Perceived Stress Scale was developed by Cohen and Mermeistein (as referenced above and in the journal of Calderon et al, 2001) to measure the amount of stress that a person perceived during past semesters. The Perceived Stress Scale is a 14-item scale designed to measure the degree to which situations in one’s life are evaluated as being stressful.

Some students may perceive factors such as nutrition, exercise routines, sleep patterns, social activities, and work as stressors that they need to overcome in order to achieve a higher academic performance standing. On the contrary, other students may not perceive these life situations as factors of stress at all. Stress itself has been proven to be a factor affecting a college student’s GPA. Moreover the way the student perceives his or her stress can determine how much stress the student is actually under.

3.4.1 Methodology and Hypothesize

I will rank a student who has a high score on the Perceived Stress Scale as one who has experienced high levels of stress, and his or her GPA at that time should show that negative effect. The purpose of my research report is to determine if there is a negative correlation between perceived stress in a given semester and that semester’s GPA. Perceived stress will be measured by the Perceived Stress Scale, and GPA by the grades obtained that semester (June 2012). I hypothesize that a higher score on the Perceived Stress Scale resulting in a higher level of stress, the correlated GPA should be lower during that specific semester.




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