Growth Mindset for College Students
- Effort Level. Evaluate the effort you’re giving to learning something new or to your own major. Be honest in your evaluation, not so you can cheer yourself up or tear yourself down, but so you can determine the path for improvement.
- Strategic Evaluation. If you’re giving 100% and struggling, the answer isn’t more effort. Likely, your answer starts with a need for more help, support, and instruction. And if you’re giving 50% and struggling, more effort is likely required. However, the explanation for why you haven’t been working harder is incomplete. Instead of doubling down, pause and evaluate things like environment, stress, difficulty of material (like 100 percenters you too may need more support), and accountability.
- Prioritize Learning. Students who keep their eye on the prize in their courses are those who do not chase a grade, but chase understanding. For example, a complete understanding of how your heart pumps blood to your body while running is far more important than memorizing facts to pass an exam if you want to work with athletes some day. Still, some students get stumped when they fail their first anatomy exam because the professor asked them to explain such functions. Rather than upset they don’t know how this process works, some students blame their professor for not explicitly using this example in a lecture or blame anatomy for just being too difficult.
- Persistence Training. Dweck’s research shows that growth minded individuals persist through difficulty to ultimately achieve goals and gain success. If a subject causes struggle, like the previous human anatomy example, don’t fall for the mind trick that you’re just not capable. Instead, like #2 in this list evaluate what’s missing to see if you can add anything to your study routine. Persistence doesn’t mean you will always be ready for a particular class—you might need to work backward to gain knowledge you don’t yet possess. However, it does mean that with sustained effort you can eventually overcome what previously seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.
- Imagine possibility. It’s hard to believe five time MVP Michael Jordan or Olympic multi-sport medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee were not born with all the talent we would later associate with their championships. However, Jordan famously did not make his high school’s varsity basketball team and Joyner-Kersee battled asthma and injury to win her medals. Despite these obstacles, however, both athletes were known for their incomparable dedication and effort in practices, as highlighted in Dweck’s Mindset. In other words, they didn’t just show up to a contest and shine brightly from talent alone—but their abilities were refined in the thousands of hours spent practicing due to their belief in improvement, or what Dweck would call their growth mindset.