Balancing social-emotional needs alongside the demanding academics at IMSA can be overwhelming for incoming sophomores and even upperclassmen. Let’s explore the struggles and tips in more detail:
Struggles you may face as an incoming IMSA student:
Homesickness: Moving to a residential school is a notable change for anyone, and homesickness is a common challenge. Phone calls to home might not fully alleviate these feelings, but remember that IMSA offers a supportive community within your residential hall and wing. Take the time to connect with your wingmates, as they are going through similar experiences and can provide companionship and understanding. The Resident Student Leaders (RSLs) and Resident Counselors (RCs) are also there to offer guidance and support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for a friendly face or a listening ear. Though IMSA offers school counselors that are freely available to students, some students may not feel comfortable talking about their struggles in an academic setting, don’t have time during the school day to visit a counselor, or would prefer talking to someone in a place more like home. In these cases, your RCs are great resources. Schedule an appointment with them at a time that is convenient for you to either get advice on something that’s bothering you or just to vent.
Large workload: The rigorous academic environment at IMSA can lead to moments of stress when assignments pile up late into the night. If you find yourself struggling with the workload, remember that IMSA’s teachers are aware of the adjustment period for incoming sophomores. They are willing to help you better understand the material if you seek their assistance. Additionally, don’t be afraid to communicate with your teachers and request extensions when necessary. IMSA’s Peer Tutor and Writing Center Tutor program can also be valuable resources for academic support. If you find yourself struggling with assignments or essays, look to your Residence Hall’s bulletin board to find a list of peer tutors (along with a list of what they tutor) and writing center tutors that you can contact for help.
Feeling overwhelmed and needing a break: Recognize the importance of mental health and the need to take care of yourself during high-stress periods. The state of Illinois provides students with five mental health days throughout the school year. Some students may not feel that mental health days are the best because of stigmas surrounding mental health or the idea that they’ll be more stressed out if you take one. However, don’t hesitate to use them when you need a break from the intense environment. Prioritize self-care and allow yourself the time and space to recharge. If you are worried about missing class or other clubs, teachers and students are all understanding of the need to take care of one’s mental health. Contact your teachers with any questions you may have pertaining to missed classes or assignments. You are also permitted a one-day extension on all assignments due that day. So, take some time to sleep in, eat a good meal, and relax.
Lean on your friends: During stressful times, it’s easy to isolate yourself, but your friends can be a crucial support system. Plan study sessions together, eat together, or take leisurely walks together to decompress and maintain a sense of camaraderie.
Find relaxing spots on or off campus: Discover a place where you can unwind and enjoy some time away from academic pressures. Whether it’s taking trips to Orchard Road with friends for food, boba, or coffee, or finding solace at peaceful spots like slabs, prioritize daily (or every other day) moments to relax and engage in activities you enjoy outside of schoolwork and extracurriculars.
By acknowledging and addressing these struggles while implementing self-care practices and seeking support from the IMSA community, you can better navigate the social-emotional and academic demands at IMSA, creating a more fulfilling and balanced experience during your time at the school.