Tired of Failing at College or University? Examine Your Aptitude

Is hard work on its own sufficient for college success? The short answer is no. As a College Advisor I often speak to students about the ingredients for academic success. Why do I have that discussion on a daily basis? The reason is simple, because I meet with thousands of students who have dismal grades.

Top ingredients for academic success.

My top ingredient for academic success is interest. Following closely behind interest is one very important ingredient that is often overlooked -  aptitude. 


What in the world is aptitude?

Aptitude is a student's cognitive ability to comprehend and apply subject material. It is the 'get it' factor. In other words, how well a student understands the material will impact their score on exams. If you have strong aptitude, you are likely to do well.

The unbelievers.

For those who disagree and believe academic success is all about hard work and drive, explain that to the thousands of students I've met who have done all they could to succeed and yet failed calculus, or an engineering course, or organic chemistry multiple times. Does it take multiple failures to figure out you lack aptitude? No, but many students wait until it it is too late - they are either quick to blame other people for their poor grades or they are under so much pressure to succeed that admitting defeat and changing programs is not an option.

Yes, there are bad instructors. Yes, some exams are written poorly. And yes, some institutions may not provide enough support for struggling students. But these alone do not explain consistent academic struggles. 

Who cares about aptitude anyway?

Something else that may surprise you. Colleges and universities measure your aptitude at three stages in your academic career.

1. Admission - Colleges and universities require a minimum aptitude for admission to their institution. In other words, there are minimum academic requirements, standards, or grades that you must present to get into a college or university.

2. Good Academic Standing or Continuation Requirements - Colleges and universities require students to maintain a minimum aptitude while pursuing their studies. In other words, if you don't meet the grade requirements you will quickly find yourself on academic warning or probation.

3. Graduation - Each college or university requires you to meet a minimum academic grade (as a result of your aptitude) in order to graduate.

Action Steps: Top 4 things to consider if you lack aptitude.

1. Consider dropping the course(s) that are negatively impacting your academic record.

2. Consider changing your degree (science to liberal arts), or academic route (degree studies to community college studies).

3. Examine your personal life. Are you struggling with personal issues? It could be that you don't lack aptitude but rather are suffering from a hurt, habit, or hang-up that you have never addressed. If so, book an appointment with a personal counsellor.

4. Seek out academic advice from an Academic Advisor. A good advisor will not sugar coat your problem. He/she will ask the right questions and review your academic record to determine the cause of your academic struggles. 

Your Success

There's nothing wrong with you if you lack aptitude. Everyone has gifts, skills, and talents and many of those may have nothing to do with your academic abilities. If you want to know where you are likely to excel, I suggest talking to someone who knows you well.

Although career assessments and aptitude tests can be helpful, so can the support, encouragement, and kindness of someone close to you. Often, the people closest to you know you better than you know yourself and certainly much better than a computer program. 

Finally, if you lack a support network then consult with a trusted academic advisor.




What To Do When Disaster Strikes Your College or University Record

Academic Appeals: When Life Throws You a Curve Ball

I want to share with you something that very few students hear about until they actually need it. I’m talking about an academic appeal, something you hope you are never in a position to need. But should the situation arise, I want you to benefit from my experience working on the inside of the university system for many years. This knowledge will equip you with the information you will need to successfully submit your appeal.


Each year, thousands of young people set out to pursue college and university studies with every intention of doing well. For some of these students, despite their best efforts, life throws them a curve ball.

I’m not talking about the everyday life challenges like a strained relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend or when your car breaks down on the way to school or the regret you had by taking on a much heavier course load than you should have. Instead, I’m referring to those exceptional circumstances that are beyond your control and have significant impact on your overall academic performance.

What constitutes exceptional?

Here are a few examples:

1. lengthy illness that incapacitates you for an extended period of time

2. recently diagnosed or recurrent illness

3. death in your immediate family

4. unexpected and grave financial problem (i.e theft of household belongings or loss of your house in a fire)

5. unexpected surgery

6. relapse from a diagnosed addiction or compulsive behaviour (gambling, alcohol, drugs, to name a few)

7. recently diagnosed learning disability

8. harm that was done to you (e.g. an assault)

9. other traumatic event

If you can identify with any of these examples you should investigate the academic appeal process at your college or university. Most institutions allow students who have experienced such exceptional circumstances to submit an appeal. Although the rules and regulations vary institution to institution, generally speaking there are common guidelines that each of them subscribes to.

For more information about academic appeals or how to succeed at college or university, check our my new ebook called Crush IT at College.

Crush IT at College for $4.99

Crush IT at College: A No Nonsense Guide to Succeeding at College and University.

For one-on-one advice, book an appointment with your personal Academic Advisor.

Fries With That BA? The Declining Value of a Degree

This was the headline of a Globe and Mail article published in April 2013. It paints a dismal and dreary picture of the Bachelor of Arts. While, I agree with the article in many ways, I do think that it falls short to offer hope for students pursuing a B.A. or who have graduated from a B.A.. 


It is unfortunate, but the reality for many students today is that a Bachelor of Arts on its own is not enough to compete in the job market.
There are three reasons for this:

  1. The surplus of degree holders in the marketplace has allowed employers to demand even more education from its workers. For example, although a B.A. used to be enough to secure a management level position, it is now common for many employers to ask for a graduate degree even though one may not be required. Students understand this and now commonly remark that the B.A. is worth no more than what a high school diploma once was.

  2. Our economy has been become knowledge-based, requiring greater levels of specialized training. This is why so many universities have partnered with trade colleges. These agreements allow a student to either earn a degree and college certification/diploma at the same time or they guarantee a certain number of credits are transferred when applying to the sister university or college.

  3. Our society has become credential happy. If you aren’t certified in something, you will probably struggle in the job market. Many unaccredited professions have now formed associations in the hopes of bringing greater legitimacy to their professions in the eyes of their customers.

The Good News

I often recommend that students consider college training before or after completing a B.A.. College training can be a wonderful complement to a university degree even if you cannot see the relevance (and vice versa). I remember explaining to a student how the skills learned in his B.A. in Economics will translate well into his career as an electrician. Did he need a B.A. to become an electrician? Certainly not, but since he had earned his degree it was important for him to understand how the critical skills acquired in his B.A. would serve him well in college and in his future career as a tradesperson.

As a final word on this subject let me say this: even if you have regrets about pursuing a B. A. instead of college, trust me, it was not a waste. The skills are transferable and will be with you for a lifetime.

For more insight on the B.A., check out my new ebook entitled Crush IT at College: A No Nonsense Guide to Succeeding at College and University.

For more advice on this subject, book an appointment with your personal Academic Advisor.