Conquer your academic fears, Cougars!

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Summer vacation is over. I know, it hurts writing that sentence just as much as it hurt you to read it.

Are you one of those stu- dents who can’t shake the “summer vacation”-mode mentality right away once the semester starts?

If you said no, good for you! But if you said yes… well, I want to change your mind.

Psychology research sug- gests that avoiding doing something you know you have a responsibility to ac- complish/finish is more emo- tional than mental. Read that again.

More emotional than men- tal. “But aren’t those two the same thing?”, I

Summer vacation is over. I know, it hurts writing that sentence just as much as it hurt you to read it. 

 

Are you one of those students who can’t shake the “summer vacation”-mode mentality right away once the semester starts? If you said no, good for you! But if you said yes…well, I want to change your mind.

 

Psychology research suggests that avoiding doing something you know you have a responsibility to accomplish/finish is more emotional than mental. Read that again. More emotional than mental. “But aren’t those two the same thing?”, I hear you saying to yourself in your mind. 

 

No, they aren’t.

 

When humans avoid something, they usually do so for emotional reasons. In other words, humans who avoid something are actually avoiding the negative emotions and thoughts that they think they will feel as they think about doing it in the future. What that mouthful boils down to is, humans avoid what we think will make us feel bad/have negative thoughts.

 

The keywords here are “think” and “thought.” 

 

The bad things we think will happen when we think of the possible results of doing something haven’t actually happened yet. 

 

Don’t cringe just yet at my attempt to shrink your brain. Instead, think about how this applies to coming back from the summer.

 

Did you enjoy your vacation? Was it awesome? How did it make you feel?

 

There. That’s the key here. Unless you suffered a traumatic family event or a personal injury (and I’m sorry if you did), your answer is probably happy. 

 

Now think about your feelings of being back at school.

 

There are probably mostly negative feelings, right? You fear an infamously-difficult class (or maybe an infamously-difficult Professor and/or TA). You fear a relatively-good but still low grade that would make your GPA drop like a rock. Or worse, you fear a failing grade altogether.

 

The bottom line here is that those bad things you fear haven’t happened yet. Fear may have helped our species in its early years but it is an irrational and paralyzing thing in modern times. 

 

If fear controls you and pushes you to procrastinate and put important things off for your classes, then your fears will indeed become true: failure or perhaps a poor grade at the very least.

 

Instead, take the proverbial bull by its horns: be aggressive for your classes. Ask questions during class. Practice, practice, practice. Manage your time well. Prioritize assignments, studying and personal time effectively. 

 

If you’re not a natural at those things, learn to do them the best you possibly can. 

 

Read my digital lips. You, reading this: You can do this. Do not settle for just-enough, else you will regret not doing more. Do not put off being responsible for the fun of the evenings before an assignment is due; unless you’ve already finished it of course.

 

Learn your own style and path for academic success. Years of learning from professors and the semesters of teaching my own students, and now most-recently my experience in my M.S. Biological Sciences graduate program, has taught me that there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all path to success in school. 

 

There is only your way. No two people work the same. 

 

Do not sell yourself short and take the easy way out. Thank me later.

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