You’re looking at the work you have to cover. It looks vaguely familiar. The words are definitely English. Mostly. At least, people tell you they are English, though they sometimes do look like a foreign language scrawled on the page in front of you. You may have attended a class, where the lecturer showed you how to do this, and you probably nodded and agreed that it wasn’t so bad. It seemed possible at the time. Now… you’re sitting by yourself in front of this pile of books, and wondering what on earth you’ve done to yourself. How will this ever come right?!

This is a common experience amongst students at every level. The work is new, the concepts unfamiliar, and yet, somehow you’re expected to make sense of it. I see fear in so many of my student’s eyes as it gets closer to tests and exams. This is completely normal! So many of them though, are worried that they’re the only ones battling with this. So many of them think that everyone else is somehow completely comfortable with everything, and they’re the only ones who can’t get it right.

Fear is a natural side effect of attempting something challenging that you’ve never tried before. With your studies, it’s made worse by the fact that it means so much to you. So much depends on it, and there is so much pressure. Whether from yourself, your family, friends, colleagues or classmates, there is a sense that you will be defined by this, remembered for your performance and perhaps judged for it. This doesn’t help the stress you’re already under!

We cannot eliminate fear entirely. The only thing we can do is manage it. Manage how we respond to it, how we deal with it.

Are you letting fear take over?
Although your fear is completely understandable, you need to make sure it doesn’t take over. I find a lot of students shut down completely. They are so debilitated by fear, that they don’t hear what they’re being told, can’t actually concentrate or focus on what’s in front of them. If this is you, you need to quieten that voice that’s running a commentary in the back of your head telling you how terrible this is going to be.

Take a deep breath. Focus on this moment, what you can take out of this moment that can help you. Tomorrow will have it’s own problems, leave it till then. Don’t borrow trouble from the future. Especially if you’re in class, leave the stressing until after the lecturer has finished talking! Your head will be pretty crowded otherwise! If you’re in a test, write the test before you start panicking about how badly it went!

You’re not alone
No matter how alone you feel, you’re not. There are hundreds, thousands of students in exactly the same position as you. Your situation is unique, of course, just like everyone else’s! I often find students telling me… “But Yvonne, if you knew how little I know, you’d know I was dumber than everyone else!!” Trust me, I’ve seen thousands of students, their attempts, talked to them and understood their concerns. They all sound remarkably similar.

Students always focus on people that are ahead of them on this journey. You fail to see how far you’ve come already. You forget that you’ve struggled before, and come through successful.

Be careful where you invest your energy
Studying is as much a psychological challenge as anything else. You only have a limited amount of energy to spread around… be careful where you expend that energy!

Stay away from overly negative people. They can be extremely draining, and it’s very tough to maintain a positive approach when someone is constantly moaning and complaining in your ear. People looking for someone or something to blame can also do a lot of damage. These people are trying to find an excuse for why they can’t make a success of this, and will try convince you as to why it’s not their fault. Both of these types of people need an audience to make them feel better about themselves. You don’t need to let this become you!

I’m not saying that you’re not entitled to your ‘off-days’, that you shouldn’t support those around you who are having a bad day… but there’s a difference between picking someone up, supporting them, and having to constantly drag them out of their negativity.

Invest your energy wisely!

This journey that you’ve chosen is not for the faint-hearted. It asks a lot of you, every day. It will definitely be worth it in the end, but there’s no question that it’s one of the biggest challenges you’ll face.

If you can relate, or have a query...


  1. The points you have made are so relevant, as usual. Especially the one highlighting the fact that we are not alone!

    • Dear Yvonne,

      Thank you for taking the time to write this blog,it so relevant and speaks to a lot of issues I’m facing.After reading a lot of your posts I’m encouraged to keep going forward

      Thank you!!

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Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

Yvonne Starkey CA(SA)

I coach accounting students who are struggling with their study habits and mindset, and want their studies to be as effective as they used to be. See more on my about page

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