Cramming culture leaves already stressed students living off after-care, rather than self-care, during busy deadline seasons

As we approach the business end of the semester, we need to ask ourselves if our study methods are doing more harm than good

When picturing deadline season, one often conjures up the image of stressed students bent over their books, desperately trying to retain information. Needless to say (or rather, write), this is the result of cramming culture-that is, working intensely to learn a lot of information, or complete tonnes of work, in a short amount of time.

With assignments building up, many students often find themselves tempted to delay their work as much as possible. However, it is important to note that this is not necessarily always how it starts. Sometimes, they will find themselves at least working on minor assignments and attempting to stay on schedule. For one reason or another, some still end up prepping for exams, or working on their essays, at the very last minute. In fact, this has become a rite of passage of sorts for many university students, especially since they have to adjust to a new workload every year. Attending university, for lots of people, comes with the cycle of attempting to be productive, falling behind, and pulling an all-nighter the day an essay is due.

Although very prevalent nowadays, cramming culture has various negative impacts. When the case in question is just one assignment, staying up late to finish it while admittedly exhausting is not the end of the world, as students can catch up on their sleep later on. It turns out to be a problem, however, when there are consecutive deadlines, as cramming for them stops being plausible. While, on occasion, some can manage this dilemma as well, most of the time; inevitably, it ends in burnout, which is characterised by three aspects: fatigue, increased mental distance from your work, and feeling negative emotions when it comes to working. This is because cramming on a regular basis takes up too much energy.

“When pulling an all-nighter, you are tired, cranky, and often hungry. The next day, during the exam, is not much better.”

Frantically completing your assignments does not just lead to burnout. It also usually means that they are submitted at a lower standard than if you had worked on them earlier. Any knowledge you try to store in your brain will only be temporary at best, not to mention the massive stress you would be under. When pulling an all-nighter, you are tired, cranky, and often hungry. The next day, during the exam, is not much better. Needless to say, your performance level is probably not the best it has ever been, making the case against cramming fairly compelling.

Cramming culture leaves little time for students to take care of themselves and their health. During deadline season, they often find themselves content with the bare minimum, just as long as they get their assignments submitted on time. Add to that their other responsibilities, and the whole thing becomes too much. It’s not just university assignments people have to deal with. Whether it is family obligations, society duties or part-time jobs, university students undoubtedly have a lot on their plate. Deadline season has even proven to be lethal to students’ social lives. Trying to balance all of that is no easy feat. Too quickly, it can lead to burnout, the awful state of mind in which just thinking of work summons up far too much energy. Recovery takes a very long time… Later, by the time they have recuperated, they find themselves assigned even more work once again juggling seemingly endless responsibilities. And so, the cycle continues.

Students are exhausted. Despite how common of an experience it is, it seems that cramming is very much an unreliable study method. Not only does it not help with retaining information, but also, it leads to a continuous cycle of cramming, burnout, and recovery. Take it from someone who is struggling with deadline season – and just barely managed to reach the minimum word count for this article – cramming, while a legitimate study method, can easily backfire, and is simply not sustainable. This is especially true since students require a tremendous amount of after-care post-cramming, often needing days to recover from each cramming session, which, unfortunately, might not be possible if they have other commitments outside of college.