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Description: Are you a first-year student? If you are answer the following questions (and if you’re not think about how you would’ve answered them when you were a first-year student). Do you feel you belong here at college or university? Do you feel that you’re on equal footing with your fellow first-year students? How do you think you will do this year, academically? If your answers to these questions were anything less than enthusiastic fist pump and some version of “Heck Yes” then you should read this article and some of the recommended follow-up links carefully as they offer advice that may make a profound difference in how things go for you this year.

Source: Conquering the Freshman Fear of Failure, David L. Kirp, The New York Times, Sunday review.

Date: August 20, 2016

Fear of Failure

Photo Credit:  Monica Ramos for The New York Times

Links:  Article Link —

Here are some not so pleasant facts. Not everybody does particularly well in first-year university or college. Over one third of first-year students aren’t really sure why they are at university or college, are really sure how to manage the demands being placed upon them, and are unlikely to seek assistance from the potentially large array of resources that are available to them at their institutions. Why might this be? The great deal of research has gone into trying to understand what is actually involved both in the transition from high school to university or college and in the development of a positive attitude and a positive track record once students arrive at their chosen postsecondary institutions. One consistent finding that is surprising in its simplicity and, as well, possibly as surprising in terms of how easy it might be to fix is that a lot of how things go during first year depends on whether students have a “growth mindset” as opposed to an “fixed mindset”. The difference between them is easy to see, just look at what happens to students after they experienced their first serious failure on a test run a paper assignment in their first year. Fixed mindset individuals see their mark is a direct indication of their ability level, take it to heart, and cut back on their efforts to succeed. Growth mindset individuals, on the other hand, see if failure is a challenge and as an indicator of areas in which they need to focus their energy and efforts in order to improve and succeed. As simple as it sounds, it can make a huge difference in how things go during one’s undergraduate years. If used in hearing more about what you can do check some of the links below, talk to your local student support services office, or email me (Mike Boyes, [email protected]) for some information about how to improve your prospects.

Wondering what your mindset is? Go to Carol Dweck’s website and take the test:

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sort of factors might contribute to a first-year students anxieties or fears in relation to possible failure?
  2. What’s the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset and what sort of developmental factors may be involved in influencing which of these mindsets as your student brings with them to college or university?
  3. What sorts of intervention strategies might we be building in an effort to help me first-year students do better in and feel better about their first year at college or university?

References (Read Further):

Yeager, D. S., Walton, G. M., Brady, S. T., Akcinar, E. N., Paunesku, D., Keane, L., … & Gomez, E. M. (2016). Teaching a lay theory before college narrows achievement gaps at scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201524360.

A Carol Dweck TED Talk