Learn to Unlearn (Student Essay Series)

Hi Guys,

For the next little while, I’ll be posting essays from university students who I’ve personally coached on how to rapidly achieve academic excellence.

Here is the first one. I hope it helps!

– Aleem

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Learn to Unlearn   

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The more certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

This essay is important to students because I want them to know that even when things become difficult or it feels like nothing will go the way they want it to, it is important to not give up. There are always ways to get through the most difficult days. Find that motivation, believe in yourself, and be encouraged to want to do better. As a person who has always struggled in school, I was able to get a 4.0 GPA. So it is possible for anyone.

A finish line is a goal you set for yourself. It can be grade you want to achieve by the time you’re finished a semester of school, or an amount of money you want to raise because you want to travel. It is okay to have more than one finish line. Have a realistic goal, because there is nothing worse than feeling disappointed because you couldn’t achieve a goal. One of my goals for school was to obtain a 3.7 GPA so I can successfully get my Marketing major. Another more personal goal was to better manage my stress.

I wanted to obtain a GPA of 3.7 because all through high school, I struggled with my grades, having a constant mark of a C or 2.0 GPA. Although I knew I was smart enough, I wasn’t able to apply myself when it came to the important tests or assignments. Everyone that surrounded me also knew that I was capable, so I wanted to prove to them and myself that I was capable of achieving good marks and that hard work does pay off. Constantly being upset because my grades were never good enough to my standards, I wanted feel proud about myself. Although it is only the end of the first semester, I was able to achieve this goal and finish this year with a 4.0 GPA. I will explain how I was able to do this.

Managing my stress and being able to keep it at a minimum was important to me because when I have high stress, I always feel like giving up when things becomes too difficult. Normally, when I am experiencing high stress, I get frustrated when I am unable to complete all of my tasks, which later results in higher stress because I have more things to do. I find that when I am able to manage my stress and keep it at a minimum, I am able to organize my days better, completing all the tasks I may have each day. According to an article by Jan Ferrington, “stress is your body’s response to any kind of demand made on it” (2), so it very important to be able to control your stress and keep it at an appropriate level. Although I still experience high stress at times, I am able to control it a lot better than I used to. I am able to realize when my stress levels are increasing, and keep them at a manageable level.

By the end of this semester, I wanted to become better with managing my time with tasks and still have enough time for myself. I found that when I was struggling with time management I would become stressed when I wasn’t able to complete everything I wanted to. Although I’m good with balancing the important with the unimportant, I find that when I have a lot to do, I end up spending too much time on the important and cramming to get other tasks done on time. In the article Teaching Students Time Management Strategies by Kathleen Deska, it mentions that one way to keep track of your time and manage it better is to create a time log, and try to block out any interruptions while studying or doing homework. By creating a daily and weekly schedule, I found that it makes it easier to know what tasks need to be done by when.

When I began classes at the beginning of the year with a 2.0 GPA, my mindset about university was that it was really difficult and I wouldn’t be able to successfully finish my classes. This resulted in high anxiety and stress levels as well as low self-efficacy. In an article based on Bandura’s theory, Bandura states that self-efficacy is the “beliefs in ones capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations” (544), which influence the choices individuals make. That being said, if an individual starts thinking they are incapable of doing something, the actions start to match the mindset. For a while, I believed that I was incapable of doing certain projects or work, which resulted in failed attempts. When I turned my mindset into positive thinking, and found my motivation to work hard I noticed positive results.

I am one of those people who have a huge problem with procrastination. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until starting university. I struggled completing tasks on time when I would wait until the last minute. This happened because either I was not interested in doing it, or I thought the assignments were too difficult. In the article Procrastination in Different Life Domains: Is Procrastination Domain Specific? procrastination is described as something one puts off until tomorrow what one had intended to do today; and when this happens, tasks get put behind, piling on top of each other creating more things to do in the end than what you started with. In the article Helping Students Manage Perfectionism and Procrastination, some ways to deal with procrastination is to set realistic goals for oneself, divide large projects into smaller steps, and identify the issue of why procrastination is occurring. To get over my procrastination, I found that rewarding myself when completing a task I did not want to do, helped a lot.

One of the biggest challenges to achieving my 3.7 GPA, was that I found I would get distracted easily. This happened because once I lose interest in an activity I step away from it for a while, which usually resulted in being more permanent and completely losing interest. Being distracted easily also resulted in struggling to finish tasks on time, because I would get carried away for long periods of time. When trying to achieve my GPA for the semester, the biggest challenge I was faced with was that even though I knew that all these things could wait until I was finished my homework, there was something in me that decided they needed to be done right away, and my homework could wait.

Although I still find myself getting distracted with doing school work or daily tasks, I also  find that I have better control of getting back on track. I am better at realizing when I need to finish something by and therefore I have better self-control of finishing it. I find that little breaks every now and then actually help me regain my focus when I find I’m working on something for long periods of time. When working on long assignments, or writing an essay, I am better at taking quicker breaks that help with clearing my mind so I can get back on track easier.

A really big hurdle I found myself facing throughout this semester was that I would get really bad anxiety and high stress levels. I have constantly struggled with this, but this year, more than anything, I was able to see how it affected me. I found that due to high stress and anxiety, completing assignments that made me overwhelmed were difficult, because I would get frustrated with the fact I could not figure it out. Along with struggling to finish assignments, stress levels also affected the way I learned because it would take over my mindset and I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else. I would notice increased stress levels the most when I would become overwhelmed with the amount of tasks I would have to do, both in and out of school. I found that meeting with an academic strategist weekly, has helped me get a balance on school work as well as getting a better understanding on difficult assignments.

During this semester, I had many powerful insights about how to continue becoming a better student and succeeding at University. The first thing I was told to do by Aleem was to “unlearn” the belief that hard work alone won’t make me successful. I found that along with hard work, having a positive self-belief as well as a clear and conscious mindset sets me up for success. Although, I may work hard, if I don’t believe that I am capable of achieving my goals or that I will do well, all the hard work won’t pay off. Having a positive self-belief means to believe I am capable, and that I can do anything.

The second thing I discovered is that the “preview, filter, review.” concept is very important when wanting to do well in school. When trying to understand what I have learned in class, I find that skimming my notes before every class, gives me a head start on what will be taught in class, preparing me for what is going to be talked about, and expected. When filtering information (paying attention to only important concepts in my class), not all concepts in class are important, so I have learned to pay attention to body language and repetitive information, because when information is repeated numerous times, I know that it will be on a test, or later asked about in class. When I arrive home at the end of every school day, I review the notes that I have taken in class that day, and I go through what is the most important.

If you are planning on attending University in the near future, here is some advice I will give you. First, show up to class and show up on time. Usually the teacher uses the beginning of the class to talk about what is to be expected that class. By walking in late, you could miss out on important information about an assignment, or even an exam. Every teacher gives you marks for participating, and attendance. When you don’t show up for a class, you’re affecting your GPA. You may find that you work hard and have the motivation, but when you don’t show up for a class, all that hard work goes down the drain.

Second piece of advice is to pay attention to non-verbal communication. A lot of what your teacher says, is in the way he or she stands or what they write down. If your teacher stands up straight when giving information, it usually means it is important and will be on the test. Another thing to look out for is when your teacher says “this is important to know, so write it down”, because 99% of the time, it will be on the midterm or final exam. Pay attention to eye contact. If your teacher is looking at every student while speaking, that information is also important. Just because they may not say the information is important, doesn’t mean it’s not and that you shouldn’t know it. Being able to know the most important information, will help when having to study for tests, because you will be able to filter better, and not become overwhelmed.

If you would like access to my online Academic Excellence Boot Camp, a comprehensive video training program on how to rapidly increase academic performance at university, please click on the following link: http://theartofbeingsmart.com/boot-camp-vtsp.

You will get over 8 hours of content that I personally put together and used to coach hundreds of students across North America via an exclusive webinar I held a few months ago. You can check it out here: http://theartofbeingsmart.com/boot-camp-vtsp.

Your friend,

Aleem