Failure is an option — not! Strategies to be a successful student


Pledges of “Procrastinators Anonymous” listen up! How much easier would your life be if you actually did your homework the night it was assigned or didn’t hit the snooze button a million times in the morning?

How many of you have fallen victim to “The Warm Blanket Syndrome,” not wanting to get out of bed when the alarm clock goes off?

Jessica Larsen, 27, studied art at the University of Utah. “It isn’t exactly easy to wake up at 8 a.m., if you’ve stayed up half the night watching your favorite television shows on Netflix,” she says.

She believes that the problem plaguing college students is not their inability to wake up and go to class, but rather finding excuses to blame all of their problems on. She says that laziness gets the better of them, which leads to their academic death.

“Sometimes we just get so busy.” Larsen says. “We’re at [a] time in our lives when everything is important, and that makes it harder to focus and prioritize when there are a million things going on, whether it be the latest movie or listening to your roommate talk about their ‘hot’ new boyfriend,” Larsen says.

However, no matter what the current “situation” may be, Larsen advises students to finish their homework long before the due date. She says by doing so, when fun things with friends come up, such as movie nights or having a spontaneous bonfire, you won’t be scrambling at 11 p.m. to write a five-page paper that’s due by midnight.

However, she says even if you think you are a “pro” at “BS-ing” papers and can do so eloquently and intelligently, it’s far less stressful to not procrastinate.

Jen Jankowski, a 28-year-old political science graduate student and teaching assistant, says planning is crucial for achieving academic success. She says the more you plan, the better off you’ll be — whether you’re a freshman or graduating this semester — if you take the time to organize your life, success will be within your reach.

She also says there are two vital differences between those who succeed and those who fail. “Staying organized allows you to better manage your work load, but time management is really key,” Jankowski says.

She says everyone needs time to relax, but that doesn’t mean spending four hours a day on Facebook. “You’d be amazed how much you can get done in a day if you are organized and have time management skills,” she explains.

As the old saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” So what is the secret for finding success in your scholastic endeavors?

Aaron Wood, a 24-year-old graduate student studying linguistics, has a few tips on how college students can plan to be successful and not be failures.

First, be goal oriented. “It has been my experience that if you don’t set goals, it is next to impossible to complete anything in a satisfactory manner,” he says. Wood believes if goals are set, then you know what it is you want to accomplish. You can figure out what needs to be done to obtain those goals and track your progress, knowing that you’ve done your best.

Second, do what you love. “If you don’t like it, it isn’t worth your time,” Wood says. You don’t always have to enjoy your classes or assignments. But, he says if you enjoy your major as a whole, it is a lot easier to push through the hard classes because you’ll look forward to and want what comes after them.

Third, think in the long term. “It is easy, especially at the end of a semester, to stop seeing the big picture,” Wood says. If you are tired of everything and just want a break, he says it’s easy to justify putting things off or not doing assignments. You may pass the class, but not with the grade you could have earned.

“Thinking in the long term helps you not to [settle],” he says. “You can see the lost scholarships, the jobs that you will never be able to have, [and] even the graduate school that [will] turn you down all because you lost sight of what the long term consequences of not giving your best are.”

Fourth, have fun. One semester Wood took 23 credit hours and spent every waking hour either sitting in class or doing homework. Though he was able to get good grades, he says that life was hell for those four months. After that he decided to take at least one fun class each semester and limit the hours spent on schoolwork so he could have a social life.

Though it meant he had to work twice as hard during the time budgeted for homework, he says, “I found that I was loving life more as I had a balance between school and fun.”

Finally, Wood suggests surrounding yourself with success. While working on his bachelor’s degree, he joined a research lab. He started out as a grunt worker collecting data on experiments. He was surrounded by faculty and graduate students and as a result, he spent a lot of time talking with them.

When it came time to take upper-division classes, he found them to be relatively easy because he had learned many things just by being around others who were smarter and more successful than he was. In turn that helped him to be successful since he was a few steps ahead of his fellow classmates.

“The main reason I feel students fail is one of two things,” Wood says. “They either do not appreciate the value of an education or they lose sight of the long term goal.” The same can be said for successful students. “They do well because they know the value of knowledge and [what] it costs … to obtain, and because they can see the long-term goal, [they] know what they want to achieve,” he says.

Jessica Larsen, who studied art at the U, says success and failure ultimately comes down to choice. “If you don’t choose to succeed, then you never will,” Larsen says.

“You have been given the tools to make what seems like the impossible, possible … there is no greater joy than knowing you did all that you could do to accomplish your goals,” she says.

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