What is Academic FOMO and Why Do I Have It?

I’ve written a lot of articles about academic stress, my life as an undergraduate student, my program, and how to balance social life with academics at a school like UW - so it’s pretty evident - I’m a nerd. School is basically always on my mind, in addition to the Bachelor and its related franchises and food (but it's mostly school). 

I am that person who stresses about 1% quizzes and double checks the syllabus more than their texts. I am totally okay leaving a party after one lap around the sticky basement floor or seeing Instagram stories of my friends out for dinner - it does not faze me in the slightest. However, someone posting about getting into grad school when I don’t even know what I’m having for lunch - HUGE stressor. Getting sick and worrying about missing iclicker questions - FREAKING out. 

We’ve all heard of FOMO or the fear of missing out, not to be confused with the band LMFAO - very different. I started to think about how instead of social FOMO, I have Academic FOMO which I will trademark as A-FOMO for the purpose of this article and my already cramping fingers. 

Now based on absolutely no external research and a single study with a sample size of me, I present to you my findings. 

  1. 1. A-Fomo occurs in waves throughout the semester. 

    You could have passed the point of reading the syllabus or you're not quite at the point of giving up, maybe during the exam period but really anytime throughout the semester. Sometimes I feel like A-FOMO is  just my constant state of being as I trek through this undergrad. 

  2. 2. You get pleasure out of checking your emails, all day long. 

    Woman Typing on Laptop

    The amount of time I hit refresh on that Office 365 account = not good. Seriously, it’s so fun for me. If I could communicate with my friends strictly through email, I would be down. And would probably talk to them a lot more. 

    Who doesn’t love writing out a professional email to their prof only for them to reply with: 


    Sent from my iPhone.   

  3. 3. You miss out on plans from stressing over approaching due dates. 

    Do you actually do the work on Friday night between the hours of 10pm-12am as your friends are doing not-to-be named university-y things - no, obviously not. But, it's the panic and feeling that you shouldn’t be going out or having fun with work to do, even if it is due in 2 weeks. It’s quite sad because then 1. you don’t get anywhere on your essay and 2. you don’t get to hang out with your gal pals. 

    I typically end up doing something like re-organizing my sock drawer just to feel productive. Exhilarating, right? 

  4. 4. Study groups are your worst nightmare. 

    Going into uni I had this vision of my friends and I cramming for a final, all in our pjs, snacks laid out, notes spread across the table, highlighters behind our ears, cue cards in our pockets - very collegiate and very specific. But I realized I despise studying in big groups. I feel like it gets so unproductive and is basically 5 people with their computers all open scrolling on Facebook and hoping the others think they are studying.

    If my friends ask to review something I will go, run through the content, and blast ASAP. I just don’t see the allure of sleeping in DP library when you could have focused for 2 hours, studied, then gone home WHERE YOU PAY RENT. 

  5. 5. You are doing nothing to fix it. 

    Woman Wearing Brown Shirt Carrying Black Leather Bag on Front of Library Books

    Called out myself here didn’t I?! A-FOMO is tricky because in one way it is helping me achieve academically, while in another sense I’m going through the motions of my life in accordance to my Google Calendar. 

    It feels like university is a phase of my life and is just something that has to be completed. Like a check mark on my long list of life to-do’s. People who say high school was the best four years of their lives, then go to university and say no THESE are the best four years of my life - where are you going to school? I would love to know! I really hope I don’t have to pick four years out of my young adult life to say they are the best and can one day look back and say “yeah I worked hard but I also had a blast, it was all fun!”. 

    While there are definitely other more detrimental ways to deal with academic stress, FOMO is still pretty unfortunate. 

Share with a friend who you feel suffers from A-FOMO and maybe you can work together to better balance their work-life balance! If not, maybe you can recruit them and we can become research partners and I can write my thesis on academic FOMO and get into grad school? Just spit-balling ideas here… 

Work hard and have fun while you're doing it Warriors!