Dear Alice,

I am a first-year student and I can't take it anymore. I study so much with no avail. My boyfriend, who doesn't go to Columbia, doesn't understand. He expects me to make love with him every weekend. He lives in Brooklyn and so I go home on weekends. My friends think that I should stay with him and I really do love him. I wouldn't mind having sex except I think my grades are suffering. I got an "88" on my Physics midterm which is curved to a grade of a "A-". I am getting an "A" in calculus, A- in ArtHum. I also got a B+ in Chem and an A+ in Chem Lab. I am so disappointed. I really need to do well in school. I don't know what to do. I am totally depressed.

Yours truly,

Worried Sex NoMore

Dear Worried Sex NoMore,

First, pause and take a few deep breaths. Take comfort in knowing that many students have been and are currently facing a similar predicament as you. You are certainly not alone. There are many, many resources available to you at Columbia (some of which are included at the bottom of this answer). Now, let's get started with your question. While setting high expectations for your first year at Columbia is understandable, aiming for straight A's is a lot of pressure. Aiming for perfection can leave you feeling disappointed, even when your grades are excellent, which yours sound like they are! You mention that you study so much. What kind of study habits do you have? Are you mostly studying alone or with friends? Do you feel like you spend your time studying effectively and efficiently or are you having difficulty concentrating? Do you ask your professors or teaching assistant's questions? You might want to consider asking for direction to make sure you’re focusing your study time on important material. Take advantage of office hours, review sessions, and other resources available to you – don’t be afraid to ask for help!

While getting good grades sounds like your #1 priority right now, it is important to balance your studies and your social life. Have you told your boyfriend about your priorities? Does he know how much you worry about your grades? Until you find a way to manage your time and responsibilities, it might be worth considering not going home every weekend and asking your boyfriend about a different visiting schedule. There are a variety of options that might work — on alternate weeks, he visits you in your residence hall; seeing each other twice a month instead of every weekend; seeing each other for one night and day each weekend; etc. You can use this as an opportunity to communicate with your boyfriend about sex and its role in your relationship. Communication about sex, priorities, and important issues like these can help maintain a healthy relationship. 

Finding balance between school and relationships isn’t easy. And it’s important to find time for you. Sometimes talking with someone can help remind you to focus on yourself. Since you’re a Columbia student, you can make an appointment to speak with someone at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) by calling 212-854-2878 to address your feelings. In addition, you may want to make an appointment with Medical Services on the Morningside campus via Open Communicator or by calling 212-854-2284 to discuss the pain and cramps that you have been experiencing.

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