Today’s educators are well aware that students—like most people—feel unsure of themselves, especially in new situations. In a sea of highly competent peers, many students flail around wondering where they belong and even, if they belong.
To ward off these common fears and give students the best odds for success, many colleges now offer courses and seminars covering everything from understanding learning style to developing effective study habits to facing the future with confidence.
Fear of failure
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Conquering the Freshman Fear of Failure,” David L. Kirp a graduate school professor and senior fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, recalls lacking confidence while attendinng Amherst College. He says he didn’t discover until his college reunion that his peers had felt the same. “The good news is that this dismal script can be rewritten,” he says. “Several recent research projects show that, with the right nudge, students can acquire ways of thinking that helps them thrive.”
Cengage author Carol C. Kanar shares a similar story in her textbook The Confident Student, Eighth Edition. She says she struggled in her first year of college, and it wasn’t until a special teacher taught her how to study that she was able to do well and graduate with honors.
“When I was in college, there were no student success courses,” Kanar explains. “We were expected to know things like how to take notes, how to manage our time, and how to read a textbook. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t, and I was one of them.” Kanar calls The Confident Student the book she wishes someone had written for her back then. In it, she provides tips on everything students need to succeed, including how to prepare for tests, communicate confidently, manage stress and face the future.
We’ve also published a number of blog posts for instructors looking to pave the way for their students:
- Find out what 3,500 college students surveyed say about what makes them feel confident to succeed in “Three Factors that Boost College Students’ Confidence
- Learn ways to help students persevere despite negative experiences in “Seven Elements of Academic Resilience“
- Identify six keys for helping students maintain a positive mindset in “Positive Habits that Lead to Student Success“
- Learn how to help students cultivate an internal rather than external locus of control over their circumstances in “Helping Students Take Charge of Their Own Attitudes“
- Discover how to kick-start motivation when it seems to be faltering in “Ten Tips for Motivating Students“
Even after achieving success, it’s common to be plagued by self-doubt. A recent Huffington Post article, “5 Tricks to Overcome Imposter Syndrome,” describes “imposter syndrome,” which is a term coined by psychologists back in 1978. The entrepreneur interviewed in the article—who started her first company at age 20—provides some tips to help ward off that common feeling many people have that their success was only a lucky break instead of something that can be attributed to ability and hard work.
Reference: Kanar, Carol C. 2014. The Confident Student, Eighth Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.