Overachievers or overwhelmed? Honor students share their stress, their strategies

Published by Kassandra Miller on

While some students may be satisfied with a pass, other students feel the need to go above and beyond. Overachieving students don’t necessarily have easy lives and many face adversity, but that doesn’t stop three UCC students from overachieving.

Amy Murry

Amy Murry, a straight-A student, is a non-traditional student working hard on a degree so she can help others.
The Mainstream

Amy Murry, a non-traditional student, is in her third term of college. Murry says she came back to school after battling addiction for about 20 years, getting sober in 2012. After recovery, her focus was learning to live a sober life and be a mom. After 11 years of sobriety, she wanted more, “I was not doing anything with a purpose anymore, so I decided I wanted to come back to school and finish my degree to build a career,” Murry says. That’s not to say it was easy.

“There will be times you are overwhelmed and need a break. It is not going to hurt to take a step back and have a break, to balance yourself. That’s why it’s important to stay ahead, it gives you a window of opportunity to take a break when needed,” Murry says.

Murry wants to be a case manager or social worker and help people. “I am giving my kids a positive mom to what I was prior,” Murry says.

Murry says UCC classes are inspirational. She employs time management skills, and she works out her schedule prior to the term for classes, research, studying and assignments to fit in with family life and responsibilities.

“I want to stay in this town and make a difference in the community, and the jobs are there, they just need the people,” Murry says.

Murry manages her class schedule and assignments carefully to be successful. “Maintaining a high GPA takes a lot of work, there’s not a lot of free time because you apply that to all the work you must do. I turn my work in prior or when it is supposed to be due in. Falling behind in your work can dig yourself into a hole,” Murry says.

Asking for help is important

“Math can be my biggest stressor; I don’t consider myself good at math, but I still apply myself and ask for help. Being a part of the TOP program, I have tutors available. It’s important to not struggle alone or walk away from help. There are other options rather than giving up on yourself,” Murry says.

Murray offers that self-care is important to counteract studying. “Whether it be taking an Epson salt bath, going on a trip to the Wildlife Safari or playing calm music, it is important not to burn out. I get to bed by 11 p.m. each night to retain focus and be functional the next day,” Murry says. “Meditating and breathing techniques (also help me) to keep the balance,” Murry says.

“The forces pushing me are hard in just building the career I didn’t think I could build; I did not know this life was available to me. When I found out it is I jumped at the chance, that is the drive to excel. I wish I had known sooner; it is satisfying to feel fulfilled,” Murry says. “The good grades make me feel satisfied. I am absorbing the work for myself. When I have good grades, it’s an acknowledgment that I want to have a good career out of that.”

Sophavid Choum-Starkey

Sophavid Choum-Starkey focuses on learning the material rather than thinking about the overall grade.
Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream

Like Amy, Sophavid Choum-Starkey also uses TOP tutoring. Choum-Starkey has been at UCC for over two years now. When she first started, she recently moved from another country, and English is her second language.

Choum-Starkey also experiences some stress to maintain a high GPA. “I think it’s about doing well in class and understanding the materials. I want to do well, I don’t want to fall behind,” Choum-Starkey says via phone interview.

“The stress is more about deadlines, especially if it’s a difficult class, it takes longer,” Choum-Starkey says. “Of course I have stressful days, it’s harder to keep worrying and thinking about due dates than sitting down and doing it.”

Time can be a factor

Choum-Starkey is in TOP, the AMC Programming Club and Phi Theta Kappa Club, “It’s hard to find time for myself; I have bills, work, school, paying for school, commitments to clubs and responsibilities to family. I don’t have as much time to study. I can relax when I figure out the assignment and when I am doing well. There is motivation to do well and keep going,” Choum-Starkey says.

Think of the Topic, Not the Grade

“I don’t think about grades, I think about doing my best and understanding the work which is important. You want to get something out of each class, so asking for help and understanding the work is important,” Choum-Starkey says.

“In the future, GPA is not the deal breaker. It is important but not the most important in life. You feel better seeing a good grade, knowing you are doing well and doing better, but a good comment is just as important, and making good improvements is worthwhile,” Choum-Starkey says.

Nakaela Hunt

Nakaela Hunt gives the truth about being an overachiever and tips for making overachieving more manageable.
Photo provided by Nakaela Hunt

Nakaela Hunt, current ASUCC business manager, Alpha Sigma Upsilon PTK chapter president and Rocky Mountain Cascade PTK regional president has been at UCC for over two years.

Hunt offers tips to fellow peers for remembering to live a little while stressing through school.
The Mainstream

Hunt started at the beginning of the pandemic when classes transitioned online. Hunt was timid, but as the months continued she found the best way to achieve, feel connected and grow was to get involved with student life and activities.

“Without the support of my team, my family and the smiles from other students I wouldn’t be as successful in my growth as I have been,” Hunt says via email.

Hunt says that being with ASUCC and seeing students’ faces when they receive school supplies, food boxes, vouchers and Thanksgiving boxes, fill her jar of joy. “It’s like a natural energizer because a smile is special, as you never know what others are going through,” Hunt says.

“With Chapter PTK, doing the college service project and the Honors in Action project with my team gives me the energy to continue my journey of growth and achievement. The college service project and Honor project are both ways in which students can help build a healthy, happy community on campus and surrounding area while also learning how to think with a growth mindset to research as a team and build leaders that inspire others to grow as leaders.”

Hunt recommends strategies for achievement. “With everything I do, it does get to be a lot, especially when taking a full class schedule on top of extracurriculars,” Hunt says.

Hunt reaches out to others when needed, “I don’t always follow the advice I tell myself in those moments. That’s when I slip and become stressed with classwork, family and extracurriculars. I’ve had many hard days, sad days and tired days, but I always hold on to those small moments of joy. It’s when I can’t remember the happy moment, I know I’m starting to stumble. That’s when I realize I need to talk to someone,” Hunt says.

“Never be afraid to talk with someone about class, home life, career choice or worries. Holding things in is what makes people fall. Some people have an ear for listening. We are a community, and a community helps each other achieve by collaborating and supporting each other. So, find those support people because we are here and everywhere, and go be an achiever of anything you set your heart on,” Hunt says.

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