Why I Dislike Participation Points in College Classes as Someone With Anxiety


If you struggle with anxiety, you might know the feeling.

I sit down in class and examine the syllabus. Basically, the Bible for the whole semester.

And then I see it…

Participation: 15 percent of final grade

My stomach drops.

Most college students would find comfort in this. It’s easy to raise your hand and answer a question or provide well thought out points in a discussion. Most find peace knowing that 15 percent could save their final grade.

As someone struggling with anxiety, this is the exact opposite for me.

I see that 15 percent as the one thing that will destroy the GPA I work so hard to maintain. Not to mention, I don’t even know what level of participation the professor expects from me.

Do I raise my hand and answer a question?

Do I provide a point in a discussion?

Do I talk out loud, as if the class is a group of old friends?

How many times do I have to raise my hand?

How often must I speak out in class?

Does this professor count just coming to class or do I actually have to talk?

Most professors do not specify. What makes it worse is the fact that I battle with myself over it. It should be easy to just speak what I’m thinking, but it isn’t.

Each question must be perfectly thought out and my grammar must be immaculate. I sit through class, thinking of the perfect question, and when I have it I let it simmer in my throat, unable to speak it. So I wait until there’s the perfect chance to raise my hand and when I do, another classmate speaks out and steals my point, or steals my chance.

I sit and become angry over the easiness others have with this. I begin to question my sanity, and it is a constant reminder of the power my anxiety has over my life. Something professors think is so easy and simple becomes something so difficult.

Of course, I won’t tell my professor, because if I have anxiety, I know that blending in is what helps me and I don’t want anyone to stigmatize my anxiety.

I cannot count the amount of times I’ve raised my hand in class and when I’m speaking I begin trembling, shaking all over with an unsteady voice. I cannot make eye contact with the class. I am a mess. I go through this emotional torment just to get 15 percent of my grade. The emotional toll it takes is exhausting. I go home every day and ruminate over what I said.

Did I say it correctly?

Did they think I was stupid?

They could tell I was sweating.

I’m not nearly as pretty as half the girls in my class.

They definitely thought I was dumb.

How “crazy” do you have to be that you cannot even just simply ask a question?

So when people tell me that it isn’t a big deal — it is a big deal. When you have generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or panic disorder, it could be a very big deal. Something that is difficult for me should not influence a large chunk of my grade. If I show up to class everyday and turn in my work, that should be enough — but it isn’t.

I will get through this.

And the next time you see the shy girl slip to the back of the class, do not judge. You don’t know what she battles in her mind.

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