Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is it possible to be too confident? The missing link in college completion.

Students in the U.S. lag far behind foreign peers when it comes to math and reading. However - they are in the lead when it comes to confidence

We are the generation where everyone got a trophy. We feel pretty good about ourselves. But sometimes this confidence isn't rooted in or connected with the hard work required. Those that don't check their confidence will be met with frustration, depression, and disappointment when they struggle to succeed in college or find a job. 

I still think many students need more confidence - but not so much in believing in what they can achieve, but in how they can achieve it. There is a missing link that we have to connect if we're going to raise the high school and college drop out rates. 

And it's a missing link you can connect for yourself

I'm currently reading an amazing book called Students Speak: Are We Listening? by Kay M. McClenney and Arleen Arnsparger, and in the opening they state that while nearly 80% of community college students say they intend to earn an associate degree when they start community college, less than half are actually achieving that goal (p.14).  

The authors allude to the missing link between confidence and results in community college (can you see yourself or your friends in these statements?): 

"While students express certainty about their end goal - a degree, certificate, and/or transfer to a four-year institution - they often are far less certain about what they'll do with the credential they earn."(bold mine, p.16).

And in focus groups, students "often acknowledge that they didn't clearly understand in the beginning what it would take for them to succeed" (bold, mine p.17). 

Students come into community college confident that they will succeed. However, when things get hard, their confidence is bruised and they assume they just don't have what it takes. And they drop out

Belief is a powerful thing, and you won't be successful in your life if you don't believe you can be. However, that belief must be tempered with a serious understanding of the hard work required. Otherwise, you'll end up sorely disappointed, with a life far from what you hoped for. 

This is where the "knowing what you want to do with your degree" part comes in. The only way you'll be motivated to do the hard work is if the end goal is something you really want. Something that really excites you. Something you know is going to absolutely enhance your life. Something you're willing to work for.

You can't just be confident that you'll "get there somehow." You have to be confident that you can do the hard work required, every day. 

How to link your confidence to your goals
  • Think about the goals you have for your college degree and write them down. Then interview someone with the degree and/or job you want and pay close attention to how much time and work they put in to achieve that goal. Ask them what their biggest challenges were in achieving their goal. Ask for their advice in overcoming those challenges. 
  • Ask yourself which attitude honestly reflects you right now: "yeah I'll do this one day" or "I'm going to do this to the best of my ability today."
  • Realize that anything that will make your life better is going to be hard. College is hard. But the hard work is a lot easier when it's directed towards something you really want. 
  • Write a journal entry about what you really want in your life and how college will help you get there. Believe you can make it happen. And work work work.
In the end, when it comes to results, confidence alone is second to hard work. But confidence plus hard work? Unstoppable. 

McClenney, K. M., & Arnsparger, A. (2012). Students Speak Are We Listening?. Austin: Center for Community College Student Engagement.

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