How does your emotion or motivation affect your capacity to cope with or manage a college education?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A successful college experience requires discipline and focus.  Emotions that interfere with either make college difficult for anyone.  Many people of traditional college age (18-22) have not learned to manage their emotions completely, but the freshman year can be a time of great emotional growth, as young people grapple with their feelings and learn to buckle down.  Some young people are lonely and homesick their first semester.  Others handle freedom poorly, following the crowd, and making poor decisions about drinking and drugs.  Some fall in love or into infatuation, which can also interfere with one's education.  All of these are examples of the need for emotional growth in college. 

Motivation or the lack thereof can make or break a college education, also promoting or interfering with discipline and focus.  What motivates a person to be in college?  It might be a hunger for knowledge.  It might be to have a successful career after.  For some, the only motivation is parents' expectations.  Internal motivation is always more powerful than external motivation, since we will do better when we are engaged in something we care about, as opposed to doing something that someone else cares about.  The person who wants to learn will be far more disciplined and focused than the person whose parents expect a college diploma.  I have found that many students today are motivated by how much their education costs, but I find it difficult to believe that is a powerful motivator.  On another note, few people with internal motivation will always be focused, because if the course requirements are broad, not everyone will find every course interesting, and not everyone will find every professor fascinating.  This is where that discipline is particularly allowing the student to buckle down and do what needs doing, whether it's interesting or not.  If the student is not motivated to learn or motivated to move on to a career choice, it is difficult to achieve that discipline. 

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