Overcoming Educational Boundaries (Student Essay Series – Essay #4)

Overcoming Educational Boundaries

“Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunder-bolt is elicited from the darkest storm” – Charles Caleb Colton.

Have you ever questioned yourself; do I have time? Should I be doing something else? Why university? Why now? These are questions that are closely related to the issue of motivation the social cognitive theory. Motivation is referred to as “a means to be moved to do something… a person who feels no impetus or inspiration to act is thus characterized as unmotivated, whereas someone who is energized or activated toward an end is considered motivated” (Deci, 2000). When discussing the social cognitive theory it is often suggested that “strategies for increasing well-being can be aimed at improving emotional, cognitive, or motivational processes, increasing behavioral competencies, or altering the social conditions under which people live and work” (Pajares, 2002).

Let me start things off by introducing myself. I am a 25-year university student who has just relocated to Calgary on his own. I have attended university in Edmonton at Grant Macewan and University of Alberta. I have a substantial amount of work experience aside from my university career and I am an aspiring artist. I have chosen the business program here at Mount Royal because I am both fixated and intrigued with the business world and what it has to offer the young minds of today. I have changed my mind countless times about what I want to do with my life and at times have questioned whether or not if I am doing the right thing. This is OK! The one important lesson I have learned is in todays’ modern world, change is good. With so many ideas, technological advances and influential characters in our lives, we often struggle with picking the one and only thing we want to do with the rest of our lives. Another area that college kids like us face is wrapping our heads around the concept that, we cannot perfect the things we do without failing at them first. In this essay I will outline my failures, my endeavors and how I have come to reach my optimal production in everything I do today. I will also touch on the fact that university is not all its choked up to be, in the sense of how difficult it is. With proper time management, a clear and concise end goal and the strength and will power to do so, I will hopefully inspire you to get to yours, just like I have managed to do.

At the beginning of this semester, my goals consisted of; obtaining a 3.8 GPA and acquiring the necessary knowledge in my studies to apply to the outside world come my graduation at the end of the year. Other scholarly goals I was striving for were to prohibit procrastination as much as possible and significantly reduce my obscenely high stress levels during the academic calendar. Lifestyle wise, I wanted to concentrate largely on my artwork as well as surrounding myself with the right people that would assist in my growth. I was also yearning to exit the service industry as a bartender because this job was becoming boring and a “not so productive way” to spend my time. I am almost certain you know that with a job in the service industry as a bartender it is easy to get sucked into the lifestyle these people live. Partying during the week, sleeping all day and working all night during the weekends. This schedule is harmful to a university student, as they are basically required to use their cognitive abilities during the times when these industry folk are either sleeping or partying. Cognitive abilities can be further broken down to the word, cognition. This is defined as “the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes” (Learning Rx Franchise Corp., 2014).

Coming into the semester with a 3.2 GPA was not bothering me but I knew this was definitely not the best GPA I could obtain. Because of a crowded social and work schedule last semester I was left with a more then acceptable GPA that could still use some much needed work. I knew at this point a little more studying was needed, as my class schedule was substantially harder then last years. I was also facing some stress from home because as a student that lives in a different city then their close family, I was not able to see them as much as they wanted. With summer ending and school starting I was also faced with the fact that party/vacation mode was over, and because I was having so much fun it was a difficult transition for me to forget about my friends and concentrate on school. Times of loneliness, stress, procrastination and overwhelming thoughts and ideas were just some of the emotions I was feeling. These are more then typical for any student starting university for the first time or for the year in that matter. I am lucky enough to have been through this 3 times now as I headed into my last year of university. With these previous experiences I was able to grasp the problem, rid of these tasteless emotions and hewn my drive to succeed to its fullest in order for me to make the best of this year and obtain the goals I had set out for myself.

During the course of the semester, like every student, I was faced with an array of hurdles and conflicts. A particular challenge I was faced with was my time management skills. I among a sea of students am a procrastinator to its fullest. Initially leaving assignments until the last minute, pushing assignments a day late in order to make time for others which led me to receiving late marks and so on. This was detrimental to my mental health as I was driving myself crazy with project after project. My stress levels were through the roof and my productivity was at an all time low. I had basically hit rock bottom.

To improve my work ethic and create a better speed of implementation (which is the speed in which assignments are started when compared to their due date) I made better use of my spare time instead of watching TV. I had created soft and hard deadlines in a hard copy agenda that I looked at every morning and I taught myself to never get worked up. Yes ok, I know how this sounds, “never get worked up”, but it is true. I noticed countless times whether it be an exam or a project, that with a clear mindset and a stress free outlook, I experienced better results. The mind is a beautiful thing and it can either be astounding or detrimental to ones self-being. This brings me to the theory of self-efficacy where “during the past two decades, self-efficacy has emerged as a highly effective predictor of students’ motivation and learning. As a performance-based measure of perceived capability, self-efficacy differs conceptually and psychometrically from related motivational constructs, such as outcome expectations, self-concept, or locus of control” (Zimmerman, 2000). This can be further deduced by the terms, believing in you. If one can believe that they are fully capable of the workload that lays in front of them, this initial mindset will do wonders for them. Just like myself, having a high self-efficacy means you will have a better chance at completing the tasks at hand.

What I learned about succeeding in university has a lot to do with the Effective Learning class taught by Mr. Aleem Nasser. One misconceived issue that university students often praise are the actions of, working harder then you’ve ever worked before. This is false. Unlearn that now and never learn it again. There is a fine line between working hard and working too hard that if crossed can become injurious to your overall success in university. Don’t get me wrong, hard work is required but there is a definite threshold. Instead of working harder, you need to allocate your time and efforts to the right tasks. Don’t waste weeks on an assignment that’s only worth 5%. Study for your midterms and finals but don’t allocate all of your time to one subject. Study little by little throughout the semester so you can retain the information in your long term memory so when it comes to exam time, a short review will transfer the information into your short term memory and into your sensory memory.

For each and every class remember the 3 simple rules; Preview, filter and review. By doing these 3 simple things information will come easier to you and results will be obtained. Another common misconception is having to read every page of every text book. By studying your professor and his/her syllabus you will learn that some textbook and some class material is what comprises the entirety of their exams. By previewing material before class, you are able to filter once in class and from there, can review after class to solidify the information needed for exams.

Remember to always keep an agenda and at the start of each semester write down any important dates. This includes projects, quizzes, team meetings, midterms, finals, assignments, etc. After completing this, ensure you review this every day so you are familiar with what tasks are fast approaching and what other tasks you can start preparing for so your stress levels remain optimal.

Another important insight you should become well acquainted with is the Performance vs. Stress graph. This graph illustrates the importance and presence of an optimal level of stress in order to achieve maximum performance. The ideal number of stress on a scale of 1-10 is 7.5. This produces a performance level of 10 on a scale of 1-10. Becoming comfortable with this concept will help you achieve the best results whether that be increasing or decreasing your stress levels at times.

I hope by reading this paper I have touched on some of the areas that have made the idea of attending university intimidating. I also am confident that you will have an easier time answering the questions; do you have time? Should you be doing something else? Why university? Why now? University, along with life, is a growth experience and although you may not have all the answers, I am assured I have provided you with the right mentality and understanding to go in with optimism. I truly wish you the best of luck with whatever path you choose and just remember to stick to the fundamentals/basics and to never be afraid to ask for help.

Works Cited

  1.  Deci, R. M. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology , 54-67.
  2.  Learning Rx Franchise Corp. (2014, n.d. n.d.). Learning RX: Train the brain get smarter. Retrieved november 29, 2014, from Learning RX: http://www.learningrx.com/cognitive-definition-faq.htm
  3. Pajares, F. (2002, n.d. n.d.). Overview of Social Cognitive Theory and of Self Efficacy. Retrieved November 27, 2014, from Overview of Social Cognitive Theory and of Self-Efficacy: http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/eff.html
  4. Zimmerman, B. J. (2000). Self-Efficacy: An Essential Motive to Learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology , 25-91.