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.
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.
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.