Written by Kaelin Cooley
Many students feel nervous taking a test, even if it is for a subject they love. Other people, like me, make themselves sick even thinking about an upcoming test. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and major depressive disorder. This makes test-taking truly feel like a life-or-death situation.
Before a test, I get a pit in my gut, which leaves me with no appetite–even though food is the best fuel for your mind and body. I get nauseous,light-headed, and even shaky and sometimes start to shake. How am I supposed to study for an exam when I feel like this? I have done what I can resourcefully with medication, therapists, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. But the pressure of a test somehow always gets the best of me. No matter if I have an A or C in the class, testing anxiety is real. So how did I make it through four years of undergrad? I made the most of the right resources.
No matter what type of school you attend — public, private, D1 or community college–there is typically some sort of resource office for students. Whether it is an Educational Access Center or a Center for Disability Access and Resource, your school should have one.
I did not know this going into my freshman year of college, and this ended up hurting me. I also had yet to have an active treatment plan for my mental health. I ended up almost failing out my freshman year and I realized I had to do something. I switched schools, took my therapy dog with me, and, while getting him registered with the school, I learned about “Testing Accommodations.” At first, I brushed it off and thought, “No, I just need to be a better student.”
Did my anxiety listen to me wanting to be a better student? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
As soon as I came to my senses and realized testing accommodations would be very useful to me, I met with an advisor in the Educational Access Center and had my doctor supply me the needed documentation. There were two primary testing issues for me: timed tests and the people around me in the testing room. With timed exams, I get so worked up over the time limit that my mind goes completely blank and I am not able to recall anything I have learned, even basic math. With a whole class testing around me, I worry about things like when I turn in my test compared to everyone else; The fewer people around me, the easier it is for me to focus on my test questions. The advisor and I worked together to find just the right mix of testing accommodations for me. I received 1.5x time for tests and I was able to be in a limited distraction environment. This meant I did not have to be in the same classroom as everyone else who was taking the test. Each of my professors would decide where I would take the test, usually their office or the Educational Access Center.
The End Result?
I made the Dean’s List two semesters in a row. I also brought my cumulative GPA up tremendously–my GPA at the new school was over 3.5 while I finished the three years of my undergraduate degree in Health Science.
I was accepted to 5/5 Masters of Athletic Training Programs, and I will be continuing my education at the University of Idaho this summer. During my interview for this school, I was very open about how my mental health caused me to struggle but also persevere through some of the hardest times of my life. Despite my academic history, the panel that interviewed me said this vulnerability drew them to me–I was accepted at the end of the interview. They also told me that my testing accommodations I had during my time as an undergraduate can be continued throughout my Masters and used when sitting for my Board of Certification Exam.
Do not hesitate to reach out for help or guidance when it comes to your mental health. When deciding on a school or registering for upcoming semesters, look into the resources your school offers so you can be the best you possible!
If you would like more information or guidance on how to go through this process, feel free to reach out to me via email: Kaelin@enhancedprep.com