Episode 6

Resilience & Bouncing Back

Description of the video:

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So I came into IU and on my first day here I was arrested.
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And all of a sudden you feel so discouraged.
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So overwhelmed.
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And so, of course, I wasn't doing well.
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Did the work, I didn't procrastinate, I organized myself and my time wisely.
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Yeah, it really turned me around as a student.
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Drew: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of our workshop series. We're filming
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on location on a beautiful day at Hilltop Garden. Hilltop Garden is a location on IU
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campus where students can take classes on such things as sustainable agriculture and
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also clothing and dye manufacture. We've chosen this location because Hilltop Garden is a
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place that is full of growth and renewal - two themes important for our episode today. Today's
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episode is called "Resilience & Bouncing Back."
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Molly: I'm Dr. Molly Burke and I work at the Student Academic Center helping students who've
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been placed on academic probation.
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Drew: And I'm Dr. Andrew Koke; I'm an advisor for the College of Arts & Sciences. Now you
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mentioned academic probation and that hits close to home for me. In my undergraduate
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years I was on academic probation.
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Molly: Well, you're not alone. A lot of students, actually, experience academic difficulty when
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they get to college. And, you know, for some students, they've experienced some academic
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difficulty in the past. And for other students it's really a new, surprising experience.
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And likewise, you know, for some students they've never experienced something so challenging
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before in their lives, so it really comes as a shock. And for other students, academic
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difficulty is just one issue heaped onto some other complicated things that they've been
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dealing with.
02:00
Drew: The thing that can sometimes be tricky about academic difficulty is it has a way
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of sneaking up on a student. Sometimes, perhaps, they've not been checking in with their professor
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or checking their grades, and the next thing they know they're hearing some bad news. Other
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times they might have known that this was coming but they think, perhaps, that if they
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do nothing it'll somehow correct itself. But either way, it can sometimes lead to digging
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a hole so deep you can't get out of it.
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Now, we're going to be looking at some students today who are going to share their stories
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with us. Who are these students, Molly?
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Molly: The students we're going to hear from today are actually students who have been
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placed on academic probation, but who have gotten back into good standing and, actually,
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in a couple of cases, who actually just graduated this May. So we sat down with them and asked
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them to talk a little bit about their experiences. We just asked them to talk, we didn't give
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them a script. We just wanted to hear honestly about what the experience was like and, ultimately,
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what they did to get back on track.
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Andrew: Like a lot of students who come to IU, I think, when I came to college I just
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kind of considered it the next step in my academic journey. And a lot of times when
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you take that step you don't fully have the step after planned out. So I think in high
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school my schedule was very regimented between school and academics, after school extracurriculars
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between performing arts and athletics and things like that. My schedule was always very
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laid out for me. And when you come to college, you don't really realize until you get on
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campus, but then those time management skills that you didn't realize... didn't really need
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to come into play in high school really are then on your shoulders; the burden's on you.
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Tyler: My Freshman year I lived in an LLC on campus, which meant that everyone that
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I was living with had similar interests. We were all speaking languages and reading about
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far-away places and planning travel abroad. And so that led to a lot of late nights in
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the lounge. And that led to me not attending a lot of my 8 AM courses, courses that needed
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attendance to pass.
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Micah: So, a couple things went wrong, actually. The first major thing was that I chose to come
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to IU not on my own merit but my family wanted me to come here. And they wanted me to pursue
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a Physics degree because there were a lot of opportunities that they could get me in.
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And Physics wasn't anything that I was interested in. I chose to do it because I wanted to make
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my family happy. So in my whole first year here it was very hard. I didn't like the classes
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that I was in, I didn't like the professors, I didn't like anything about the program.
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And so of course I wasn't doing well to begin with. The second major thing that happened
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is I struggled with social anxiety. And a lot of people think that social anxiety is
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when you don't want to hang out with people or you act weird around people. And that wasn't
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the case with me. It was I was scared to go to class, I was scared to check my Oncourse,
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and it even got so bad that I wouldn't check my email because I was afraid that something
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would happen. And of course, not liking Physics and being scared to go to class I just didn't
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go to class. And so for an entire semester I pretty much just wasted away in my apartment.
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Mariana: Well, going into college I had family problems. So, my Grandpa passed away and I
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was not in the right emotional state, and I was even considering whether or not I was
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ready for college.
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Logan: I think the main thing that went wrong with me being on academic probation was...
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When I first came into IU I had a large misconception about education. I felt as though college
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was just like a customer basis; where I would give them some money and I would get a piece
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of paper and get a degree and go get a job. And being on academic probation sort of gave
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me a wake-up call and restructured the way I thought about education. It's much more
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about learning than making money. And that's one of the things I always emphasize to people
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who are on academic probation - is that they need to look at the learning first rather
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than the grades, because it's much more about the journey than getting to the destination
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of graduating.
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Molly: So we've just heard about a number of different factors that have contributed
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to these students experiencing academic difficulty. And of course there are a number of complex
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issues that students can be going through, such as a family problem or a crisis of some
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sort or students having to work lots and lots of hours. And for some students coming to
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Bloomington feels like a shift to a really small place. For other people it feels like
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moving to a big town. Students can experience a kind of culture shock when they come to
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IU.
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Drew: But in all of our years working with these students at Indiana University, we've
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never come across a student who could not have succeeded. They were all smart enough.
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Molly: Absolutely. Every student who gets into IU has met the admission standards and
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every year the IU admissions office turns away, literally, thousands of people. So what
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that means is that the people who are here have earned their spot here. They deserve
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it. They're the ones that made the cut.
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Drew: But the thing is, when you're in academic difficulty, even though you might know in
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your head that you're smart enough, you don't feel like you're smart enough. You actually
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begin to doubt whether or not you have the intelligence to make the grade. You may even
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begin to wonder if Indiana University is the right place for you.
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Molly: Students can feel ashamed. It also can be a really isolating feeling. So we asked
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the students to talk a little bit about what it felt like to go through that, because we
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feel like acknowledging the difficulty that you're going through actually can be a big
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part of coming to terms with it and then being able to move on.
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Andrew: When you get discouraged academically, particularly the one instance I can think
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of or the one example I can think of that is the most effective is class attendance.
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When you get discouraged and you feel like you're getting behind everything just keeps
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piling on top of one another. Miss one assignment here, miss a test here, miss a couple classes
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here and there, and all of a sudden you feel so discouraged. And it almost serves as a
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way to justify yourself, that it's OK to miss class, it's OK to miss assignments. It just
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snowballs one on top of the other and, before you know it, things have really gotten out
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of hand, so... More than anything it's just a really discouraging feeling to know that
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you've struggled and failed academically.
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Tyler: Once I actually decided to begin checking my grades on Oncourse to find out how I'd
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been doing in these courses I had barely attended, I realized that in most cases there were not
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enough points in the semester to recover my errors. So I felt so overwhelmed. I was asking,
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"What am I going to do?", "How can I save myself?", "Is there anything that I could
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even possibly change?" And because I'd not thought about the resources ahead of time,
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I didn't think of a plan, a distinct plan that could help me get out of the hole I'd
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dug myself into.
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Jonny: And those struggles that I faced coming from high school to college ultimately landed
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me on academic probation. So that's kind of how I got there. And then, finding out, you
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get an email telling you, saying that you're below a 2.0. And getting that email is kind
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of a shock to your system.
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Mariana: It's just... it's just something I never expected to be on.
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Logan: I was mainly just very disappointed in myself, because I knew that I could do
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better than that.
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Andrew: For me, struggling academically was never about an inability to learn the material.
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It was a time in my life when I lost confidence in myself and lost confidence in my ability
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to achieve my potential.
10:06
Micah: What the turning point for me really was, was realizing that I was using fear as
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a crutch to not do what I wanted. And I was afraid of what my family would think of me,
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I was afraid, like, if they would be happy, and I was afraid of failing. And I was using
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that fear to just stay in my own little box.
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Andrew: I think the turning point for me was... I think when I was struggling I was very nervous
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about other people finding out about my struggles - in particular, I would say, my parents. My parents
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have helped me a lot in terms of being here at IU. So I think finding out that I was really
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in a bad spot and kind of, I guess, thinking, "Well, how are my parents going to react to
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this?"... it was a really big burden on me.
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Tyler: Inadequacy. I felt very inadequate because I also knew that all these people
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I was talking to and the friends that I had made, they weren't saying that they felt swamped
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or that they felt lost in their semester. They were attending their courses, doing OK.
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They would talk about tests and quizzes that they had done well on or papers that had received
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good grades and I wasn't sharing those same feelings. I felt worried that everyone else
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was doing college right, and I wasn't.
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Drew: Those were some really difficult feelings the students were talking about. And I've
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met several students in my time who haven't admitted the situation to their parents, or
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to their friends even. And some have not even admitted what's going on to themselves. What
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they're really doing is hiding from the situation.
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Molly: Well that makes sense because, you know, it really takes a lot of courage to
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face your difficulties straight on. It's a big risk to go and really try for it, because
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when you try and you give your all, you're risking that if things don't go right, it's
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going to feel even more disappointing. And that's why I have so much respect and admiration
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for the students that we've talked to today. Because they really had the strength and courage
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to just go for it. So let's hear from them about what they decided to do.
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Logan: I had been going down a path where I had habits of just getting by with the bare
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minimum in every class. And when I got to college and I got on academic probation, that
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was a huge realization. So I had to turn that around and stop playing a game with my professors
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where, like, seeing how much I could get away with and really figuring out ways to see how
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much more I could do. And turning around from being disappointed in myself to being proud
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of myself for my achievements was a much better feeling.
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Micah: The first major thing that I had to work on was getting out of my comfort zone.
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And for me, that was actually going to class and speaking in class... and I found the more
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that I participate, the more that I pushed myself out of the comfort zone, the more
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I wanted to tackle more things. It was like that snowball of motivation.
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Andrew: First and foremost, I think, a lot of times in school the tasks you have can
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be so big and daunting that you don't really know where to start. For me, getting myself
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back on track was about splitting those big tasks up into more manageable chunks. And
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a lot of that came through scheduling my time more effectively and more detail-oriented
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time scheduling. Basically, I needed to make to-do lists, I needed to make a full schedule,
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24 hours a day of what I was going to do. Whether it was studying for a test, whether
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it was going to class, whether it was group meetings, even playing basketball with my
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friends, going out to the movies - I scheduled everything and I adjusted my time scheduling
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accordingly as I went through the week. And I think scheduling even the simplest of things
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allows you remain focused on, sort of, your list of priorities.
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Tyler: I realized that I would have to become much more organized. I decided that every
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class needed a binder, or a folder, or a specific notebook where I could keep everything important
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for that class. Also, this helped me to study, because once I would look through that class's
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binder, it wouldn't be a mess of loose papers, and half-sheets filled out, and post-its - it
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would be dated pieces of paper that I could follow.
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Mariana: Actually, my advisor sent me an email about a workshop seminar, so if you didn't
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like the business classes there was something different in a different department that was
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business-like. And that's what got me into telecommunications, which is my major, that
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I'm really, like, happy and... I fell in love with it. And so thanks to that I found the
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major I liked, I got more interested in my classes. And I did the work, I didn't procrastinate,
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I organized myself and my time wisely. And, most of all, I just enjoyed myself and I really
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liked my classes and now my major.
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Micah: And the other major thing was talking to my family and expressing to them that Physics
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wasn't what I wanted to do and I'm not going to get anything out of life if I'm doing everything
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for them. And so I had to make that big decision to change my major to something I was going
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to enjoy. And once I faced that fear and talked to my family, things just happened to turn
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around. I enjoyed the classes that I was in, I enjoyed going to class, I wasn't afraid
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that my family was judging me, and I just started doing really well.
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Mariana: ...helping me seek out my professors, which I normally wouldn't have done because
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being in such large classrooms I'm kind of not into putting that much forth effort to
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get to meet them. But I did. And I visited my advisor more often. I still see her
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sometimes and she still recognizes me, which is awesome! And also just my instructors...
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Tyler: My advisors and professors were another really helpful resource. I used my advisor
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that semester more than any other semester until now. They helped me to choose classes,
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to know more about the classes I had decided on, and to help me find other campus resources
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that would help me with tutoring, or studying, or just a quiet place to breathe.
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Andrew: The best thing I did while I was here at IU was to surround myself with people whose
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strengths were my weaknesses. The support group I had here at IU - my friends, my fraternity
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brothers, my girlfriend, everyone - I felt like placed a really big importance on achieving
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their goals and finding value in how small tasks during your time in school can help
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you achieve your long-term goals. So, I would say, the most important thing you can do is
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to find people who encourage you to better yourself. Find people who maybe offer qualities
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that you don't and kind of emulate people around you and learn how to do the same to others.
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Tyler: What helped me stay motivated was knowing that there were people who were doing college
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successfully, people that stayed organized, people that attended all of their classes.
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I knew that I was intelligent and capable and that I could do that, too.
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Logan: I changed my mindset on education because before, as I said, I was on, like, a basis
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where I thought it was just money. And when I actually came to value it and see what it
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could actually do for me later in life... yeah, it really turned me around as a student.
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I try to look long term at the future because, me specifically, I'd like to go to graduate
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school. And then if I do well in graduate school, I'd like to pursue a Ph.D. So, those
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senses of achievement that I get from doing things is what keeps me motivated, because
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I know that no matter how well I do on something, I feel like if I did well on something I can
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always do better. And I like proving things to myself like that.
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Micah: Yeah, when I face a setback now, I look at it as a learning experience rather
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than a stumbling block. If I can overcome everything that I had already overcome in
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the past, there's nothing stopping me but me from overcoming what problem faces ahead
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of me right now, yeah...
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Drew: What was so impressive with these students, Molly, is that they saw what they needed to
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do to change their circumstances and then they went and did it - they became proactive
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towards their own education.
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Molly: Absolutely. And students can start doing that simply by attending class. And,
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actually, not just attending class, but really coming to class prepared, ready to engage
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with the materials, and learn from their professors and their fellow students.
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Drew: In addition to attending class, creating a schedule for the entire semester and also
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keeping all your classes organized.
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Molly: And students will find that their academic difficulties become a lot easier when they
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find something interesting to study. So, when students find a major that really works for
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them, things get a lot easier. And if students aren't sure about what they should major in
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or what they really are interested in, they can talk to their academic advisors, who are
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a great resource.
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Drew: If students are having trouble on campus or at home, they could visit Counseling and
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Psychological Services in the student Health Center. And if they're interested in being
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tested or having accommodations for disabilities, Disability Services for Students is available
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as well.
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Molly: So, we're not here to say that there's a quick fix or that it's going to be simple.
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But we have seen that when students repeatedly take some of the actions that we've been talking
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about, things really do get better. Each of the students that we heard from today was
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ultimately able to take an experience of struggling academically, think about it, decide what
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they really wanted for themselves, and then frame that experience as a positive learning
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experience. And, in fact, I actually know of several students who were admitted to a
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graduate program or who got a job offer because they were actually able to talk about the
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experience of overcoming academic difficulty. So, students can find that, actually having
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that type of struggle, and getting through it, helps them to be stronger and better learners as well.

Exercises

  1. What are some ways I could become more engaged in my classes?
  2. Which organization or time management strategy mentioned in this episode would make the most difference in my life if I applied it right now?
  3. Am I in the right major? And how do I know?
  4. What role do these people play in my life and how could I make the most of the support they might have to offer?
    • parents
    • siblings
    • friends
    • significant others
    • fellow students
    • professors
    • advisors
    • RAs or counselors
    • tutors
  5. One student in this episode talks about how changing his view of the purpose of a college education made a huge difference in his academic performance. What is my view and how could I change it?
Download the exercises