Change The Way You Think About School! (Student Essay Series – Essay #3)

Change The Way You Think About School!

Einstein said “ We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” and I do not believe that there is a quote that better demonstrates what I have learned throughout my failures and successes this semester. With every hurdle and challenge I have experienced this semester, I learned to change the way I think and to unlearn what I have been taught about succeeding at school.

An academic finish line is a goal that you wish to achieve by the end of a predetermined time. Having one is helpful because it will keep you on track and remind you what your end goal is. At the beginning of this semester, my academic finish line was to have successfully completed this semester with a 3.8 GPA. I required a 3.8 GPA in order to move from an undeclared major to a psychology major in the fall 2015 semester. Becoming a psychology major is important to me because I know that psychology is what I am passionate about and it is what I have always wanted to do.

At the beginning of this semester my personal finish line was to find new techniques to manage my time and stress better. I hoped that working on my time management and stress coping would help me to better myself as well as help me to achieve my academic goals for the end of the semester as well as for my future goals. Time management is understanding what you need to get done and setting aside enough time to do it. It was important for me to figure this out this semester because I knew that without it I would not of been able to achieve my academic goals.

Beliefs are what we think we are able to accomplish and our mindset is how we view the world and ourselves. My beliefs and mindset at the beginning of this semester were strong and positive and although I have experienced some negative thoughts whilst overcoming obstacles, I believe that I have maintained the same idea of my personal worth and ability this semester. When I began this semester I believed that university could be challenging but it presented so many amazing opportunities that the challenge would be worth it in the end.

I came into this semester with a 3.4 GPA and this bothered me because I knew that I was capable of achieving higher grades and I knew that I needed to do so in order to get into my program. Finishing last year with a 3.4, knowing I needed a 3.8 made me feel like I had failed and it made me feel that no matter how hard I tried I would not be able to get into my program for this semester.

One of my biggest challenges for achieving a 3.8 GPA and maintaining a positive mindset was the fact that I am a huge procrastinator. I have always believed that a lot of people procrastinate even though we know what we should be getting done. This is supported in the article “Choice and Procrastination” in which Rabin (2001) stated, “Most of us procrastinate, we delay doing unpleasant tasks that we wish we could do sooner. Such procrastination can be very costly”. I always tend to start off the semester strong, doing my work when it is assigned rather than when it is due. However as the semester progresses I tend to lose motivation or get lazy causing me to procrastinate. This is a huge problem because the more I put things off, the more I end up having to do, and the less time I have to finish everything. This puts me into a situation where I am unable to produce good quality work and experience high levels of stress.

I do not believe that I fully overcame this hurdle because procrastination is such a large habit to break. However, I have definitely improved upon it. I was able to work on stopping it by learning new techniques like keeping a detailed schedule of my assignments and planning my day around specific time slots set aside for homework. Procrastination is definitely something that I have to work on and will probably always have to work on. With the right techniques and attitude, I believe that I can get over this hurdle.

Another one of my challenges for this semester was my high stress level. I am more often than not a very happy-go-lucky and calm person so I tend not to stress over little things. This being said, I always seem to get overly stressed about assignments and am not very good at dealing with this stress. Sometimes I worry too much over not having enough time and sometimes this causes me anxiety. Stress is a big challenge for me because when I stress I tend to shut down and feel less motivated to work on assignments. Ironically, putting off theses assignments only prolongs and increases my stress level.

I believe that I was fully able to overcome this hurdle. At the beginning of this semester my mindset towards this challenge was rather negative. I believed that I would not be able to maintain a healthy stress level. I was able to overcome this hurdle by changing the way I thought about assignments and by altering my perspective on stress. I started to think of assignments as being marked more on how I demonstrated what I knew and less on how well I knew it. I now know what Einstein meant when he said “Information is not knowledge”. I was able to control my stress level by filtering the information I was given into information I actually needed to know and making sense of the information I actually needed.

I have always believed that my challenge with procrastination and my challenge with stress were inversely related. Stress caused procrastination and procrastinating caused me to stress. This is further supported in the article “Probing Procrastination” in which Holden (1997) stated, “A second study of 60 students revealed that by the end of the term, procrastinators experienced more stress and reported more health symptoms such as colds and flu.”

It has always been very hard for me to put school before my personal life. So I knew that it would be a challenge for me this semester. Prioritizing aspects of my personal life such as: friends, work and family over school is a problem because it causes me to dedicate less time to doing well in school. I find a lot of people, including myself, struggle with setting their priorities correctly in university.

In order to solve my problem of prioritizing my social life over my course work I had to figure out why I always chose to go out and do things when I knew there was more important work to be done.The answer was simple; going out was a lot more fun than homework. I believe that I was able to overcome this hurdle by realizing that it was possible for me to have the best of both worlds. I decided to spend 3 hours each day to review class notes, work on assignments and study. When the day has 24 hours in it, spending 3 on homework still allowed me plenty of time to hang out with friends and spend time with my family.

During the semester I was able to learn a lot about how to succeed in university. I gained a lot of knowledge about who I am as a learner and how to work with my skills and abilities to do well. The first thing I had to do was learn to filter information and not take so many notes. I have always been the kind of person who wrote everything down and then had way to many notes to study. I have learned to pick out the most important information from the slideshows and lectures that the teachers give.For example, if a teacher explains something more than once I will know that its important and I should write it down. I believe that this helps me to succeed because it makes it easier for me to focus on the valuable information.

The second thing I had to do to be a better student was become more dedicated to attending class. I seem to always rationalize not going to class. I say things like “oh the slides are online” and “I can go to the next class”. This semester I tried something a little different and would remind myself that the most important stuff would be covered in class and that it was important for me to attend. I attended almost every class this semester and I believe it has made me a much more successful student.

In the article “Self- Efficacy and Academic Motivation” Schunk (1991) defines self- efficacy as “An individuals judgment of his or her capabilities to perform given actions”. The third thing I realized was that hard work does not mean doing well. I learned that even if I found the best study strategies and worked really hard, I would not do well unless I had the right mindset. I had to learn to increase and strengthen my self-efficacy beliefs in order to succeed. Learning that in order to do well I had to work hard and increase my self-belief helped me to be a better and more successful student.

If you are going into your first year or second year or even last year of university, here are a few tips that I believe can contribute to your success.

  1. The first thing I recommend you do is creating a weekly schedule at the beginning of the semester. Dedicate a certain amount of time to school, work and your social life. Falling into a routine such as this will prevent you from procrastinating as well as prevent stress caused by not having enough time to do your assignments.
  2. The second thing I recommend you do to be successful in university is attend class. Although it sounds simple and sometimes classes may seem like they are not worth attending, I promise that you will gain more knowledge from your lectures and tutorials than you will from your textbook. Attending class will also give you a chance to ask your professor questions.
  3. The next thing I believe will help you to succeed in university would be to surround yourself with people who want the same things that you do and will support you throughout your failures and successes. It’s important to surround yourself with these types of people because they will always be there to motivate you and help you succeed.
  4. The last thing I would recommend for new university students is to try new things. Take classes you wouldn’t normally take and find new interests. University is full of opportunities and gives you the ability to be whomever you want. Use university as a time to figure out what you’re good at and who you are so you cannot only be successful in university but also in life later on.

References:

  • Holden, C. (1997). Probing procrastination. Science, 278(5344), 1715-1717.
  • O’Donoghue, T. Rabin, M. (2001). Choice and Procrastination. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 116, No. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 121-160
  •  Schunk, D. H. (1991). Self-Efficacy and Academic Motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26(3/4), 207.

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