Choices of Successful Students

From "On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life" by Skip Downing

Graphic of four celebratory graduates in caps and gowns

Successful Students ...

  1. Accept self-responsibility, seeing themselves as the primary cause of their outcomes and experiences.
  2. Discover self-motivation, finding purpose in their lives by discovering personally meaningful goals and dreams.
  3. Master self-management, consistently planning and taking purposeful actions in pursuit of their goals and dreams.
  4. Employ interdependence, building mutually supportive relationships that help them achieve their goals and dreams.
  5. Gain self-awareness, consciously employing behaviors, beliefs and attitudes that keep them on course.
  6. Adopt life-long learning, finding valuable lessons and wisdom in nearly every experience they have.
  7. Develop emotional intelligence, effectively managing their emotions in support of their goals and dreams.
  8. Believe in themselves, seeing themselves capable, lovable and unconditionally worthy as human beings.

Struggling Students ...

  1. See themselves as Victims, believing that what happens is determined by external forces such as fate, luck, and powerful others.
  2. Have difficulty sustaining motivation, often feeling depressed, frustrated, and/or resentful about a lack of direction in their lives.
  3. Seldom identify specific actions needed to accomplish a desired outcome. And when they do, they tend to procrastinate.
  4. Are solitary, seldom requesting, even rejecting offers of assistance from those who could help.
  5. Make important choices unconsciously, being directed by self-sabotaging habits and outdated life scripts.
  6. Resist learning new ideas and skills, viewing learning as fearful or boring rather than as mental play.
  7. Live at the mercy of strong emotions such as anger, depression, anxiety, or a need for instant gratification.
  8. Doubt their competence and personal value, feeling inadequate to create their desired outcomes and experiences.



Two students talking outside on a bench

"To learn is to change. Education is a process that changes the learner." - George Leonard

Major Points About Learning

From "We’re Born to Learn" by Rita Smilkstein

  1. Your brain was born to learn, loves to learn and knows how to learn.
  2. You learn what you practice. Practice is making mistakes, correcting mistakes, learning from them, and trying over, again and again. Making and learning from mistakes is a natural and necessary part of learning.
  3. You learn what you practice because when you are practicing your brain is growing new fibers (dendrites) and connecting them (as synapses). Learning is the growth of these new fibers.
  4. Learning takes time because you need time to grow and connect dendrites.
  5. If you don’t use it, you can lose it. Dendrites and synapses can begin to disappear if you don’t use them (if you don’t practice or use what you have learned).
  6. Your emotions affect your brain’s ability to learn, think and remember. Self-doubt, fear, etc., prevent your brain from learning, thinking and remembering. Confidence, interest, etc. help your brain learn, think and remember.
  7. Remember, you are a natural-born learner.


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