Positive minds lead to student success

Before students can achieve anything in life, they have to believe it’s possible.

Where academic performance is concerned, many young people received unhealthy messages all through their early life. The most common is being told they’re not good enough or unsuited to a subject.

Even students who have a generally positive outlook on their academics are affected by these issues. For example, recent research shows the majority of college students experience math anxiety.

But the subject, no matter how complex, is not the problem. The issue lies in how a student learns to think about success and failure.

There are two ways to assign meaning to failure:


A fixed mindset is present if someone believes there is an innate quality, such as math ability, he or she has limited control over. They see failure as evidence they lack this quality. They feel they can never reach the level of someone who seems to have a “knack” for a subject.


A growth mindset is present if someone believes he or she can improve in a subject using skills anyone can learn, like study skills. At any age, a person with a growth mindset will react more calmly to failure and see some positive lessons in almost any experience of it.

Mindset can change with time. For example, students who are bombarded with worries over fitting everything into their day may respond to that stress with a more rigid, risk-averse mindset.

On the other hand, appropriate support from instructors, advisers, and tutors can help them feel peace of mind. This makes it easier to see success as a journey with detours, not a straight line.

With a Fixed Mindset, Even Successful Students Suffer

Very few people succeed at a new skill or study right away. Yes, there are some students who seem to learn quickly and intuitively in certain subjects. However, even they meet with difficulty when they encounter material outside their areas of practice.

In fact, it’s often those students who’ve been praised as “natural” in a subject who suffer the most anxiety later in their college career. Having heard “being smart” is an innate part of their character, they feel lost in situations where they underperform.

No matter if a student comes to college with a stellar academic record or a history of difficulties, he or she must have a growth mindset to build and sustain academic skills necessary for college.

A Growth Mindset is Essential for Academic Skill Development

Academic skills do not start and end with the trifecta of study, note-taking, and class participation. Students must build a healthy lifestyle that’s conducive to achieving their academic goals.

Students will experiment and might encounter setbacks and failure outside the classroom, too. A growth mindset makes it easy for them to adapt to times of disappointment and move forward.

Research has shown that community college students both perform better and are more engaged when they have a positive, growth-focused outlook on their potential to reach academic goals.

Students do the most work in determining their mindset, but their instructors and the academic community have roles. Creating an environment where resources are available to fuel growth – such as tutors that students can meet on their schedule – also helps.

Stress outside of the classroom can make students more sensitive to setbacks and more likely to feel overwhelmed. If you find ways to remove barriers that prevent students from accessing tutoring and other resources, their peace of mind makes them more open to opportunities. What steps can you take to make it easier for students to reach their potential?

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