Students will encounter many hurdles on the path to academic success: from challenging courses, to demanding schedules, to technology mishaps, to disruptive living situations that make it difficult to study. They also must learn to overcome their own negative behaviors and build positive habits that enable them to achieve their academic aspirations.

In order to face their challenges and persist through the tough times, students should seek to build their academic resilience. Developing academic resilience won’t make their difficulties disappear, but it can help them face the challenges with greater confidence.

In her book Student Success in College: Doing What Works! A Research-Focused Approach, Christine Harrington defines academic resilience as “…the ability to persevere despite negative academic experiences” (154). She also lists seven elements of academic resilience. We’ve summarized them below.  These are worth sharing with your students; they’re also helpful reminders for all of us as we step towards our goals.


1. Self confidence. Don’t underestimate yourself! View yourself as a competent person with many valuable traits, and believe that you can build the skills that you need to get where you want to go.

2. Risk taking. Step out courageously, and try something new. Worry less about failure; instead, concentrate on the potential benefits of exploring a new area of study, trying out a new hobby, or embarking on a new venture.

3. Optimism. Your attitude plays a large role in your ability to overcome obstacles. Choose to view your life’s situations from a positive and proactive standpoint. Seek out the good, and be realistic & honest about the drawbacks.

4. Willingness to learn from mistakes. Don’t let a setback dominate your thinking or completely derail your plans. Examine what happened, and endeavor to make changes based on what you’ve observed and learned. In hindsight, you may see that some of your mistakes actually provided the opportunity you needed to make discoveries and grow in the process.

5. Concern about what you can control, not what you can’t. Don’t obsess over the circumstances, events, and attitudes you cannot change. Instead, spend your energy working towards making the changes that are within your power and reach. You’ll feel—and be—more productive.

6. A strong network of trusted people. Your friends and family can provide you with the support you need to build your strength and encourage you to push through your trials and get through your setbacks. And of course, they’ll need you, too… so be available to support them as well!

7. Efforts to build connections on campus.  College presents a solid opportunity to build relationships with others walking down the same path in their education (and life). They’ll get to know potential “study buddies,” and also bond with others going through the same experiences. They should also get to know their instructors, academic advisors, and others on campus who are able and available to provide the tools that support their academic success. Learning online? You may need to get a bit more creative in your efforts; however, most programs make the effort to help students build community in their courses and develop networks of likeminded learners. (Harrington, 6)


Reference: Harrington, Christine. 2013. Student Success in College: Doing What Works! A Research-Focused Approach. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.


How have you seen students build their academic resilience? What personal characteristics would you add to this list? Share and discuss in the comments.