How to Avoid the Procrastination Trap in College

Approximately 90% of college students procrastinate, according to Psychologist and American International College professor, William Knaus. Of these students, 25% procrastinate chronically, and these students are more likely to drop out of college.

Procrastination can interfere with a student’s academic and personal success. Procrastination problems experienced in high school will most likely exacerbate when adult guidance decreases in college. An Ohio State University study revealed chronic procrastinators are likely to rationalize their behavior, as if waiting is a good thing.

Professor Bruce Tuckman, author of the study, explains, “Procrastinators say they are waiting for the best time to do an assignment, but what they are really waiting for is such a high level of anxiety that it forces them to do something.” When a student recognizes his reason(s) for procrastinating, he can get beyond rationalizing and work to overcome the true causes.

Here are some reasons students procrastinate and tips for overcoming them:

Poor Time Management

Even the worst procrastinator can learn to manage his time. A student can begin by writing down goals for assignments and keeping them in a visible place. He should have targeted completion dates for manageable segments of the project, with “to do” lists for each portion. Even if a student falls behind on one or two tasks, he will find it is much easier to get back on track when tackling smaller portions of the assignment. Students must also take care not to underestimate the true amount of time needed to complete their work.

Lack of Interest or Motivation

Again, tackling an assignment in small parts can make it easier to begin. Once a student starts, she may find the work to be more interesting than she originally thought. Working with a study group can also provide a great deal of motivation. To stay motivated, a student should also leave time for some relaxation and rewards for milestones reached. Doing so will prevent her from resenting the work that remains to be done.

Uncertainty or Anxiety

Sometimes, a student avoids starting a project due to uncertainty of the exact expectations. He may even lack confidence in his ability to complete the work. Fear of the unknown can make a situation seem worse than it really is. A student should immediately seek more information or direction from a class instructor or other helpful resource. This may just be the nudge he needs to move forward. The longer he delays, the more paralyzing unwarranted fears may become.

Perfectionism and Unrealistic Expectations

Students who tend to be perfectionists may not seem likely to procrastinate, but in reality they often do. For example, a student may believe she MUST read everything written on a subject before she can begin to write the perfect paper. She spends so much time preparing, that she delays writing until the last minute. While preparation is good, a student must also learn to strike a balance. Again, setting goals and target dates can help a student move forward within a reasonable time-frame. It can also aid her in setting more realistic expectations of herself.

While people often joke about procrastination, it can affect a student’s grades in a very serious way. Severe procrastinators in the Ohio State study earned a GPA of 2.9 on a 4.0 scale, compared to the 3.6 for low procrastinators. As mentioned previously, chronic procrastinators are also more likely to quit college and keep in mind that quitting college does not solve the problem itself. Procrastinating tendencies will follow a student throughout life. Instead of walking away, a student’s better course of action is to tackle and try to overcome the problem.

About the Author

Contact Rhoda Kelley at:  College Career Coach a division of Contemporary Careers, Inc.  And we would like to invite you to sign up for our College Tips Newsletter. Get answers to your questions on the college process and achieving success in college. Sign up for College Tips Newsletter by going to:

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