Midterm exam stress ignites fall reading week debate

Ainsley Smith
News Reporter

Deep into October, Ontario university and college students must begin preparing for their fall midterms, which can be a very stressful period for students.

A survey conducted last year at Queen’s University showed four per cent of students said they had thought about suicide the previous term and 10 per cent had considered it at some point.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Canadians aged 10 to 24, after car accidents.

The report asked for the schools, which had experienced multiple suicides in less than two years, to balance exam timetables, train more staff to spot the signs of severe stress and create a fall break for overwhelmed undergrads.

Jay Yi, 20, a kinesiology student at Guelph-Humber said exams can be very stressful, especially for full-time students.

“Adding an extra few days to study and prepare for exams would definitely be helpful,” Yi said.

Currently, 11 of Ontario’s 20 publicly funded universities, and even a few colleges, have allocated a block of time in either October or November — usually ranging from two to five days for students to take a break from their classes and prepare for their mid-terms.

Toni Kelly, 24, is a design student at Ryerson University, a school currently offering students a four day fall break.

“I think offering students a minor study break is a great idea.  However, the break should not be about ‘going on vacation,’ but rather, collecting your thoughts, spending time studying, researching, revising your class notes or preparing for your mid-terms,” said Kelly.

It is not yet determined if Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber will eventually follow suit.

Jason Hunter, the vice-president of student and community engagement at Humber, said he thinks a fall break is a good idea to consider, especially to ensure student stress levels are low.

“There are probably a lot of other things that we could do to ensure that student stress is dealt with, but this is one of the considerations that could be taken,” said Hunter.

There are, however, some challenges that do arise, such as modifying the length of the semester while meeting all of the ministry requirements, which say students must be taught in a classroom for a certain number of hours per week.

“Most universities offer a 12 week semester, whereas Humber runs on a 15 week semester.  It is easier for those schools to add an additional week and still be done by mid December, while it would push our winter break back even further,” Hunter said.

In order for Humber to begin a discussion about the implementation of a fall break, Hunter recommends students get together and voice their own thoughts about the matter.

“It is a good discussion to have and a good issue for students to raise, because the student voice does get heard.”

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