Obstacles to Academic Success

The Internal Critic

The internal critic is mental self-criticism. The internal critic says things like, "You can't do that!" or "Don't do it that way, you'll embarrass yourself." The Internal Critic can stop us from doing things for fear of shame and embarrassment, and it can make us feel generally incompetent and bad about ourselves.

You can learn to identify and disarm your Internal Critics by being alert for them. When the Internal Critic is at work, a student posed with a task might say, "I can't" or "I'm confused" in order avoid embarrassment. Sometimes a student verbalizes the Internal Critic's message, as in: "I'm too stupid to understand this."

Techniques for Disarming the Internal Critic

  1. Voice It...Write or say what the Internal Critic says. Be sure to add the Internal Critic's emotional tone.
  2. Defend Yourself...Say to the Internal Critic, "Don't talk to me like that!"
  3. Talk Back to it...Write or say "I hear you, but I'm going ahead anyway."
  4. Ignore It...Acknowledge that the Internal Critic has been activated and say to yourself, "There's that Internal Critic again" and shift your mental focus to the task at hand.

Believing Learning Is Passive

Sitting and having information come at you is passive. Making an effort to gain information is active. School (and TV) are often experienced as passive. But learning is never passive. If you want to know something, you have to expend some effort. Just letting the information wash over you like a wave won't do it.

The Attitude that School and Learning Are A Drag

What happens when you say to yourself that a class, a professor, a book, or an assignment is too difficult, boring, confusing, or a drag? Answer A or B... Remember that a negative attitude resides in a person's mind; it's not a characteristic of some external object or experience. Things are not inherently difficult, boring, confusing, or a drag. They get that way because someone labels them as such.

When students call some aspect of schoolwork a drag, they tend to avoid doing it. They put off studying until an assignment or an exam are upon them, then they cram. The experience of avoidance and cramming is unpleasant, and doing it strengthens the attitude that school is a drag.

Doing poorly on an assignment or exam because cramming wasn't sufficient to succeed supports the attitude that school is hard or that the student is incompetent, which perpetuates the avoidance-cramming pattern.

Be on the lookout for a negative attitudes and their tendency to make you distance from schoolwork. You may not be ready to adopt a positive attitude about school, but you can learn to see the effects that negative attitudes have on your work.

Believing All Work Is Done In Class

In college you have to do homework. It's that simple. The rule of thumb is two hours of homework for every hour of classtime. Writing papers and studying for exams can require even more time. Students can do a time diary and an energy diary to determine how those finite resources are invested in daily activities, especially studying and homework. This will help them organize their schedules so they can study more efficiently

Not Taking Advantage of Group/shared Study

Working in a group... And it's more fun!

Difficulty Learning

Some students have problems hearing, seeing or moving parts of their bodies and/or difficulties reading or learning. They may have a chronic illness that gets in the way of learning. Student Services Professionals can help student discover ways to master schoolwork despite these issues.

Lack of Time

Students complaining of lack of time or energy for schoolwork should do a time audit and an energy audit to determine how they invest these finite resources and find "windows" in their schedules for study and to try to schedule school work when they have the most energy.

Personal Problems

There are zillions of personal problems that can get in the way of student success. Students should be open to exploring such obstacles so they student can become aware of their impact on school. Trained helpers can work with students to help them solve non-academic problems.

Little or No Emotional or Practical Support

Some students have little or no emotional support from family or friends for their work in college. And some have little or no practical help, like financial support, a suitable place to live and study, reliable and efficient transportation, or adequate nutrition. Student Support Services can discuss with students ways to solve these problems.

Poor Learning Environment

Students have different needs when it comes to their optimum learning environment. Some like it quite, some like music or other sounds in the background. Some like to sit at a desk, others like to lie on the floor. Students can determine their particular learning styles and establish an environment that supports learning and study.

Poor Reading and Math Skills

The Tutoring Center and Students Services can help students become aware of skill-deficits and suggest ways to strengthen them.

Not Using Academic Resources

Some student don't know how to use the library, a computer or a calculator. They don't know how to ask an instructor, a classmate, or a trained tutor for help.