LEAP: College Success

What motivates you?

  • When you decided on your major, what were the reasons behind it? Was it because you were interested in the subject, or do you see it as a means to an end (such as getting the particular job you want or getting into law school)? The motivation behind your choice of major can play a big part of success in that major.

  • Intrinsic motivation = you do something because you want to.
    • Example: taking a psychology class because you are interested in Sigmund Freud's theories.

  • Extrinsic motivation = you do something because feel you have to, either to earn an award or to avoid a punishment.
    • Example: majoring in biology because your parents told you to be a doctor and you want to make lots of money.

  • The more interesting you find a subject, the more motivated you will be to learn that subject. The more you learn, the better you will do and will receive positive feedback (high grades). This reinforces your interest/motivation and raises self-esteem.

  • It is possible to succeed in a subject that you may find boring/uninteresting, as long as you acknowledge the subject is important to you or your long-term goals.
    • Example: you may find Organic Chemistry the most boring course in the world, but if you acknowledge that you need this course in order to obtain your goal of going to med school, it makes it easier to study and learn the material.

Be in control of your experience

  • Along with a lack of motivation, frustration and confusion with teachers, assignments, and university polices can all have detrimental effects to your academic performance.

  • It is important to remember that college success demands independence and autonomy (being in control of your life's direction). For example, in high school your parents probably made sure you made it to class (at least most days), in college it is up to you whether you go to class or not.

  • We understand that sometimes things happen outside your control that makes it hard to stay on top of your classes. Part of having autonomy is recognizing when you are in over your head. Seek out the appropriate campus resource (i.e. professor, advisor, counseling center, student ombudsman, etc) and ask about what options are available.

  • There should be no "authority figures" having to stand over you, telling you what to do and when, whether it be your parents, teachers or university administrators. You should be the one in control of your education and therefore the one making the decisions, being aware of deadlines and university policies. The more in control you feel the more motivated you will be to do well. This is easier if you view the people who work at the university as resources there to help YOU succeed.

  • Having the same attitude and study skills you had in high school will not work well at a university. College courses required more than mere memorization and regurgitation, since they usually build upon each other within a particular major. Professors teaching upper-level courses expect you to be familiar with the basic concepts that were taught at the lower-level. If you did not internalize this information, it is easy to become lost.

Critical thinking skills

  • What you learn in your courses should go beyond what is written in a book. You should be developing problem solving skills and mental habits that will be used in whatever career you choose. For example, being able to make connections across disciplines (seeing how businesses could use social psychology to increase sales) is just as, if not more, important as understanding the material in a college algebra course.

  • Critical thinking = evaluating your own logic and reasoning behind the ideas you have and decisions you make.

  • Thinking about your thinking is an important skill to have not only in college, but in the "real world" as well. Recognizing blatant commercialism, finding a way to keep a room full of kindergarteners focused and questioning politician's motives are all examples of where critical thinking is required.

  • Edward de Bono, an expert on thinking, defines two types of effective thinking, lateral and vertical. Both are important skills that college courses help shape.
    • Lateral thinking = take what you already know, and broaden the ideas, finding connections i.e. brainstorming 
    • Vertical thinking = evaluate one idea fully, looking at its significance, purpose, and accuracy i.e. writing an essay

  • Of course we cannot analyize every aspect of our lives every minute of every day; there just isn't enough time for that to be possible. That is why people rely on their assumptions to make everyday decisions. Unfortunately, not questioning our assumptions (using vertical and lateral thinking) can lead to thinking errors. These not only affect performance at school and work, but lead to stereotypes and prejudice.

Recognizing thinking errors

  • False Choice
    • Mistakenly assume you must choose between only two possibilities

  • Oversimplification
    • Failing to see how complex an issue is

  • Ignoring or misreading evidence
    • Evaluating information improperly

  • Mistaken priorities
    • Failing to determine what is most important

  • Manipulative language
    • Using words to confuse or mislead

  • Errors in thinking about time
    • Misunderstanding the effects of time