Interest is the #1 Ingredient for Academic Success

When I ask students what they believe to be the number one ingredient for academic success, no one ever mentions interest. The ingredients for academic success students suggested most often are:

  • strong time management skills
  • hard work
  • good class attendance
  • good study skills
  • solid organizational skills

While these are important ingredients for success, I would place them in a distant 4th place relative to the critical importance of interest.


Lack of interest is the most obvious and least discussed cause of poor academic performance. After meeting with more than 8,000 university students one-on-one at every year level and in every conceivable academic program, I would say that a lack of interest accounts for almost all academic struggles and failures. Now I’m not talking about a lack of interest in a course, program, or even degree. Students regularly make changes to their academic career to either investigate an interest or to better reflect a known interest in a particular subject. What I’m talking about is a lack of interest in studying at university.

If you think that would be uncommon, I challenge you to read the abundance of literature that points to academic disengagement. Universities across the country are establishing new research centres for student engagement, expanding student support services, hiring high-priced consultants to fix retention problems, and paying top dollar to support staff to work with students who continually struggle. Because it is impossible for the system to increase your interest, they are left with trying to fix everything else.

Universities are moving at lightening speed on this issue for two simple reasons: the first is that they are being held to a greater account today by taxpayers for the percentage of students they successfully graduate. The other reason is that the problem of academic disengagement, failing students, and ultimately drop-out rates has grown exponentially.

If you lack the kind of interest I’m referring to, my advice has always been to immediately withdraw from university studies before you invest more money, potentially sink into more debt, and further damage your academic record.

Instead, consider community college. It takes a lot less time to complete than a full fledged degree. It's cheaper. And finally, it equips you with job ready skills for the marketplace.

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