Stress Tips for Your First Assignment

Looking for stress tips for your first assignment? We’ve got you. 

Many elements of your first semester or year may be stressful and anxiety-evoking, from stepping into the lecture hall for the first time to making the best first impression on your course and campus mates to managing your student finances. What many new university students don’t anticipate is the stress and anxiety brought about by being presented with their first assignment. 

Universities understand this anxiety all too well; you will never be thrown in at the deep end without support or guidance on how to navigate the waters of writing your first essay. If the guidance provided in lectures on how to format essays, source reference material, and cite your references isn’t enough to make you feel prepared to write your first assignment, consider reaching out to your tutor, attending essay-writing workshops, or finding out what additional support services are available.

During the lectures and seminars that lead up to your first assignment, you will be introduced to the mark scheme for level four assignments, and you will be provided with the bulk of source material that you will need to reference in your first assignment. In some courses, it may also be possible to receive feedback on your essay drafts before you submit them for grading. Your tutor can advise you on how to improve the structure, flow, cohesion, and references to enable you to hit the ground running with your first assignment. 

First-year students should note that some degree of first-assignment anxiety is natural and to be expected; after securing a place on a university degree, it is finally time to show your lecturers and tutors that you are worthy of your place. This can trigger a crisis of confidence or the beginnings of academic imposter syndrome, but you are far from alone in battling first-assignment stress. 

5 Top Stress Tips for Your First Assignment

1. Don’t Leave Writing Your Essay to the Last Minute

The three-week rule is one that many students stick to in their first year at university. If you start your assignments too early, you may run the risk of attempting to write your first assignment before everything has been covered in your lectures or seminars.

Leaving writing your first assignment too late could lead to the negative effects of procrastination, which include adding more stress to the prospect of writing your essay, feelings of laziness, and a poorer quality of work as you rush to meet the deadline. This brings us to the next stress management tip for your first assignment – creating an essay writing plan.

2. Create an Essay Writing Plan 

If the challenge of researching, drafting, formatting, editing, referencing and submitting your first assignment seems overwhelming, break down the essay writing process into smaller and more manageable chunks.

  •     First, commit time to reading academic journals and books surrounding your essay subject. It may help to take notes or highlight passages on paper copies of academic papers.


  •     After familiarising yourself with the academic source material, plan how you will format your essay, including the introduction, chapters, and conclusion.


  •     Once you have a rough idea of how your assignment should flow, start your first draft, ideally two weeks before the assignment deadline. While some people can write the first draft of a 1000-word essay in less than an hour, for others, it can take infinitely longer.

A great way to increase the speed of your first draft writing is by remembering that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect the first time it hits the screen – that is what the editing process is for. If you are striving for perfection in your first draft, you will find it harder to construct your first draft. You should spend the week before your assignment deadline proofreading, editing, and ensuring you have enough citations. 

3.     Communicate How You’re Feeling

If you are worried that you are underprepared to write your first assignment and you need some more support, reach out to your lecturer to communicate your anxiety.

On the other hand, if you have a good enough grasp of the source material and the assignment brief and are having a crisis of confidence, try communicating your feelings with other people on your course. You will quickly find that you aren’t alone in feeling stressed about your deadline looming, and you will be able to release the pent-up negative emotions you have been experiencing on the run-up to your deadline. 

If you don’t have anyone on your course you can trust, reach out to someone else in your support network to vent your feelings and get a much-needed morale boost; you will also allow yourself to gain insight and perspective, as opposed to ruminating and catastrophising.

4. Try Relaxation and Mindfulness Techniques

Following stress tips for your first assignment while neglecting your overall mental health is akin to putting the cutlery away on the Titanic as it sinks. If you are running up a sleep debt or depending on caffeine and sugar for energy instead of well-balanced meals, your stress levels will naturally be off the scale when you try to apply the concentration and focus required to write a high-quality essay.

To increase your mental clarity, boost your energy and limit stress, your first year of university is a great time to start experimenting with relaxation techniques and mindfulness meditation – if you are not already acquainted. Many people are put off by the prospect of meditation as they find it impossible to fully clear their minds; however, this isn’t the aim of mindfulness meditation. Your goal should be to notice your thoughts and thought patterns without emotionally reacting to them. As soon as you start to feel your attention shifting from your mantra, breathe work or whatever you have chosen to focus on during your meditation, simply bring yourself back to the present. With enough practice, you will start to be able to control your attention and focus outside of meditation sessions.

If you start to experience high levels of anxiety or brain fog while writing your first essay, use breathe work to reduce levels of stress hormones and bring your blood pressure and heart rate down. If this isn’t enough, take a break from your essay writing and find a way of relieving stress by going for a walk or doing something else you find relaxing.



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