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Learning to Say “No”

Limiting your obligations during school can help you manage the stress of your new role as a college student.

When extra events or activities come up, sometimes the pressure to say “yes” can be overwhelming–even when school is in full swing and your plate is full, You don’t want to let anyone down, but you also want to do well in your classes. This internal struggle can lead to unwanted stress and pressure.

This can be particularly difficult in an online class when friends and family don’t see you “going to class” when you log in or start on homework. Avoid the stress by learning to say “no” with the tips below.

Online student in backyard studying with husband and 2 boys

Four Tips To Help You Say “No”

  1. Allow yourself to say “no” (and not feel bad about it)
    Although you may be tempted to say “yes” to everything to not disappoint others, saying “yes” to things you don’t have the capacity for will hurt you and your grades in the long run. Be kind to yourself and consider each “no” a gift of time and energy to devote to your priorities.
  2. Practice offering alternatives
    If the request or project is something you want to do and is not time sensitive, consider saying “I can’t now, but if you ask me again at the end of the semester I’d love to help out.” If it is something you know about but don’t have the time to immerse yourself in, suggest resources or other contacts that could help. Whatever alternative you offer, remember to stay firm with your initial “no.” Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into taking on more than you have the time or energy to complete well.
  3. Don’t apologize
    This can be hard, but you have nothing to be sorry for. Remember: you’ll likely feel worse if you get a bad grade that jeopardizes your goals or you do a poor job meeting the request. It’s better to say “no” now than to be resentful of the requestor later or to spread yourself too thin.
  4. Say “no” frequently
    Just like many habits in life, this will take practice. Whenever new requests come your way, pause for a second and evaluate what you have going on and what is required of you to complete the task. If it seems like too much, just say “no.” Even if you feel uncomfortable saying “no” at first, you’ll feel more confident with time–and practice.

Saying “no” will help you focus on what you need to get done as part of your online coursework and hold space for things that you need to focus on in your work or personal life. It can feel selfish saying “no,” but doing so is an essential strategy for your success as a student. Think of it as self-care instead of something to feel guilty about.

Saying “No” is About Creating Balance

Need additional tips for balancing work, life and being an online student? Hear from Student Success and Recruitment Manager, Alison.