How to support a friend that’s struggling with their uni work

17 Apr 2020
By Megan C., Student at Oxford Brookes University

As spring gradually takes hold, so does a season full of exams and assignment hand-ins.

This alone can be a stressful time for everyone, but add a global pandemic and government-imposed lockdowna into the mix and everything feels that bit more challenging.

I know this is a stressful situation; I feel it too. But if there was ever a time to support your friends, this is it. Help support others around you and, in turn, they’ll do the same for you.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to use if you see a friend struggling with their work.

Be their study buddy

Ask your friend if they want to study together over Skype or FaceTime, or in person if you already live together. You can turn something as boring as writing flashcards into some quality time together and make studying seem like fun.

It can be difficult to even start the process of sitting down to revise for an exam, but making the commitment to work together can help make sure you’re both focused. You can keep each other on track and set goals for what you want to achieve in these study sessions.

If your friend struggles when studying, it can be a huge help for them to have you on-hand, as they can talk through their concerns as they pop into their head.

If you both do the same subject you can share notes and help each other with your shared knowledge, filling in the gaps to create a detailed set of notes. Even if you don’t study the same thing, you can still create flashcards to test one another (over video if you don’t live together) without the other person needing to know the answer themselves.

Be there for them

Sometimes when a friend is in the zone they can forget to eat or drink. Make sure they’re taking care of their basic human needs by checking in with them every now and again to remind them to take a break and eat something.

If you live with your friend, you could offer to make them breakfast, lunch or dinner, or simply offer them a cup of tea or a snack when they’re in the middle of an all day study session. When people are stressed it’s easy to skip meals, which can impact how effectively they’re able to work.

When their exam or deadline gets nearer, try to help them relax by playing some sort of game or having a catch up unrelated to uni work. Most exam and deadline anxiety occurs in the hours or few days beforehand, so taking their mind off the stress in the build up to the event can be a huge help.

Relax together

The stress that comes with writing essays and preparing for exams can seem to loom over you for days if it’s all you have to focus on. If your friend seems to be getting too frazzled while they revise, invite them to have coffee together to take their mind off the constant revision.

If you don’t live in the same flat and can’t meet up because of the government lockdown, you can still do this, but over a video call.

A simple coffee break away from the desk, the computer or a huge pile of books can allow the mind to reset and relax. This means that when you get back to revising, you have more free space to take the information in.

Read more: How to have fun and connect with your friends during isolation

Let them know they can contact you whenever

Not everyone wants a full-time study buddy. A lot of people need silence and alone time to get their exam preparation done, and that’s okay! Just make sure your friend knows that you’re there for them whenever they need you.

If your friend is still struggling with their revision, coursework or the current situation, try reminding them that they can also seek support from family or university staff. Most universities will have support set up for students in these stressful periods, and there is some great wellbeing advice online that can help in these times too.

The most important thing is for us all to try and help each other get through this tough time. It’ll be worth it in the end.

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I’m an English Literature student at Oxford Brookes University with an interest in electronic and interactive fiction and what literature will be like in the future.