Don’t you hate that word? There is such a finality to it.
It’s a said and done kind of word. You tried, but you failed. You are a failure. What an epic fail. Your opportunity is up, and it didn’t work. You didn’t win. Someone else did. You came in last. You are a …
We hate the word, and rightfully so. It goes against everything our country was built upon. In 1776 a rag-tag bunch of rebels who believed in something bigger than themselves signed the ultimate “Stick-it-to-the-man” document – the Declaration of Independence. We fought the Brits, who would have clearly had the upper hand had we played by the rules. And we won. Go America. (Yes, I know this is a revised and simplified history, but it works)
Since then, we’ve been more or less a nation that values winning above just about anything else. We are successful. We for the most part believe ourselves to be the best country in the world. We hate failure so much, in fact, that now in most children’s sports leagues, no one loses. Everyone gets a trophy.
But at some point for every student, that augmented pseudo-success reality where no one loses and everyone succeeds goes away. All students fail to some degree or another. In fact – as we’ve noted in several places on our website – Harvard suggests America has the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world. Clearly failure is happening at some point.
Before we keep going, we want to be clear about what we mean by failure.
When we say failure, we mean specifically an instance when a student does not live up to his or her potential success level.
Sometimes this isn’t bad. It’s just part of life. Things come up. More important priorities require putting aside academics for the time being. Sometimes family emergencies keep students from getting the time they need to get work done. We’re not talking about those times today, though. What we’re talking about in failure is when a student doesn’t live up to their potential academically despite having every opportunity to do so. This isn’t one of those rare occasions where other priorities deserve more time or attention.
We’re not going to dodge the reality of failure. We’re going to face it head on. All students at some point fail to live up to their potential academically. The question before us today is why those students fail. Only after understanding why students fail can we begin addressing the problem. We suggest the following four main reasons students fail:
Student Failure Cause #1: academic unpreparedness
Many students need better study skills. We’re all about that, clearly. We’ve written a lot on this need.
In fact, being more specific, it isn’t really more study skills students need, but rather a simplification of their study skills. Simple study skills help students get a grip on the work set before them. A friend of mine recently made a great observation that, given enough time,
everyone hits a point where their study skills need to be revamped. If you stay in school long enough, you’ll run into a challenge that requires a heftier approach to your academic load.
We advocate learning a simple approach to studying. Most students actually have the skills needed to succeed, they just frequently haven’t truly learned how to best apply them most effectively. Check out our resources page for more info here.
Student Failure Cause #2: Fear
The first reason for failure dealt with a student’s skills. These next three reasons deal with motivation, the first of which is fear.
Fear in students manifests in two primary ways. First, some students are afraid of failure. For these students, putting forward all your effort into your school work can only result in one of two things. Either you do fine, leave with a grade that affirms your intelligence and says to the world, “I am as smart as I thought I was,” or … you don’t. The other option is you make a grade that isn’t as high as you thought you should earn. The result is being able to say, “Yes, World, I do have rocks for brains. I am really that dumb.” Many students, whether they’ll admit it or not, simply don’t want to face the cold, hard reality that they may not be as smart as they hoped they’d be.
Truthfully, everyone fails at something sometime. It doesn’t mean you have rocks for brains. It means you are a human being. Embrace failure, learn from it, and keep on truckin’.
Second, some students are afraid of success. Believe it or not, this is a significant issue. For these students succeeding puts them in the spotlight, and they’d rather stay in the shadows. Many would rather underachieve, not expending too much energy on anything, so that they can just skirt by without drawing too much attention to themselves. Perhaps academic success would mean they are one of the “smart kids,” which is often interpreted as “dorks.” Achieving success and recognition is scarier than forever being considered merely mediocre.
Students, if this is you, be bold. Embrace success when it comes. It won’t last forever.
Student Failure Cause #3: Laziness
Laziness accounts for our third cause of a students’ failure to rise to their potential. These students honestly desire success. They want to make the honor role. They want to receive recognition. They want to make a difference.
But they feel way to busy. They just need a little extra time to relax. All that school work is just a bit too overwhelming for them. After all, what is school for if you don’t have a social life?
At StudyRight, we can’t be the one’s to judge whether or not you are lazy. Some people really are exhausted with a smaller amount of work. If you’re plate is full, your plate is full.
But in our experience, most students who are aren’t experiencing the level of success they desire aren’t too overly busy. Yes, some students need to cut down their schedules and re-prioritize their time. But some are just lazy. If you you think that you fall into the “I’m too busy camp,” you need to ask yourself how many hours of television you watched this week. How many shows can you give me the run down of the entire plot line from the last six seasons?
If you are lazy, don’t worry. There is hope. But recognize the issue and work toward a solution. Start with re-prioritizing and making sure you are spending time on those things that are most important. Then recognize that you will have to work if you really want to reach your goals.
Student Failure Cause #4: Apathy
Apathy has to be the most insidious cause of a poor student success rate.
Apathy is far worse than not having the right study skills. If you don’t have study skills, there is a solution: get some. We’ve got plenty of resources to help students in need with simplifying their study skills and becoming more effective students. If you’d prefer a different resource provider, we can help you with that too. We’re not territorial – we want students to get help. Check out a study skills course for a start.
Apathy is also far worse than being afraid of either failure or success. If you’re afraid of failure, you need to recognize that failure isn’t necessarily bad, if approached the right way. Just like a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, failure is the shortest distance to personal growth. In fact, we teach students during our study skills course to learn how to fail faster and at home so you succeed when it counts for a grade. There are far worse things to fear than failure. If you are afraid of success, you need courage. We understand that fear. It’s more common than you think. But recognize that untapped potential is a far scarier reality than having the spotlight on your face.
Apathy is far worse than laziness. If you are lazy, at least you still desire to make a difference. Sure, it stopped at desire. But we can work with your desire. You can learn some simple goal setting skills and put those desires to work. This is a key part of being an effective student, and so everyone has to learn this at some point. If you are lazy now, you don’t have to be forever. You may even have the makings of a dream that can fuel years of motivation for successful studies.
But apathy is a near impossibility. We can’t do much for apathy. We can’t help you drum up some courage, because you don’t care. We can’t help you learn how to study, because it doesn’t matter to you. We can’t give you the right tools, simplify your time management, help you set goals, because you have no desire to learn.
If you have no motivation, it’s unlikely that anyone else will be able to manufacture it for you.
I don’t personally understand apathy. Personally, I want to make a difference. I want my life to count for something. I think most people are in that boat. But some aren’t. Some prefer simply existing to living. They don’t really care if their life doesn’t count for anything. Grades? Who gives a rip?
“If you lower your expectations until they’re already met, you’ll never be disappointed.”
That’s a real quote from a real student who really achieved a fraction of what he could have. It’s the slogan of wasted potential.
If that’s you, I don’t know what to tell you. Apathy is insidious. Beware. It will leave you average, underachieving, mediocre, and lonely.
But if you aren’t an apathetic ball of wasted potential [harsh, yes. But apathetic people need to hear the harshness] and you have a desire for some sort of impact or success in life, we can work with it. The flame of that desire may be small right now, but we can fan it into a blaze. If you can find your motivation to succeed, we can help you gain the skills necessary to maximize the potential in your life.
So, what do you say? Are you ready to make the most of your education? If you’ve seen any other struggles in your friends or your own lives, we’d love to hear your solutions in the comments!