Published on 2012/03/05
Why Do Students Procrastinate?
Some students awaken in university to the realization that their former lifestyles won’t cut it for success in higher education. Photo by Evan

Why do students procrastinate?  Let me suggest a few reasons.

First, we have to remember than many undergraduates in particular are barely out of their teens, if that, and thus are struggling with a need for maturity.  They may have been more intelligent than their fellow students in high school and so did not have to work all that hard to get good grades.  Some of them have not yet awakened to the reality that university presents demands they’ve never encountered before, and so the carefree attitude of high school (an issue of limited maturity) follows them.  Another direction immaturity can take is lack of real interest in being a student despite the fact that they are in university.  Perhaps parents are paying them to be there and have pressured them to enroll, when they would rather be doing something more entertaining.

Second, related to my last point, I think there are some students who simply should not be in university because their gifts are better suited for some other form of education.  We seem to believe that vocational or technical education is somehow shameful, when I believe a good number of our university students are just in the wrong educational setting.  If you are in the wrong place, you tend not to take expectations seriously.

But there is another cause of procrastination that is much more challenging, though it is often not recognized – many students procrastinate because they simply don’t know how to move ahead.  They don’t understand the assignment or they don’t know how to use the library, or they struggle with the technique of writing research papers or they don’t understand the material they are supposed to read.  So they put it off in the irrational hope that it will make more sense tomorrow.  Or they put it off because addressing the problem directly and trying to complete the assignment is just too stressful.  No one wants to admit inability, and so many of these students suffer in silence, ever late with their assignments and often eventually dropping out.  Maybe they were within my second category – not suited to university education – but I suspect that many of these students could be helped if we educators would only recognize this as an issue and reach out to our strugglers.  There is nothing worse than watching a student who is otherwise intelligent and motivated wash out for lack of our help.

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Readers Comments

André Levesque 2012/03/05 at 1:10 pm

Ah, but how often do you see any of these problems plaguing students with experience in the workforce?

Maybe we should look at adapting Quebec’s system to suit the whole country (world???):

highschool
CEGEP/work experience — give students a chance to take responsibility for themselves in a supportive environment
university — now come to university, actually prepared for the challenges you face

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