6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Perfect | Confessions of a Student Advisor
As an online student, you face many challenges, and as a student advisor, you face finding solutions to those challenges. A former student advisor of eight years, Shawn Mangerino has been pulling the curtain back to reveal if your school really cares about you, confessing the reasons you may or may not complete your degree on time, and exploring the evolution of technology and stigmas of being a non-traditional student. In his last installment, he addresses the unrealistic expectations many students set for themselves with six lessons he learned as a student and a student advisor.
Going back to school can be intimidating—especially if you’re holding yourself to unrealistic expectations. Many students struggle early on and not necessarily because they’re receiving unsatisfactory grades, but because they feel like they’re missing some other expectation (that may have been unrealistic to begin with).
The Online Revolution
The higher education landscape is shifting, drastically. Technology has made it possible for a large population of “non-traditional” learners to return to school. These students may be parents, have full-time jobs, be deployed, and face other factors preventing them from entering a traditional classroom on a set schedule. Schools like Ashford University are utilizing emerging technologies to pave the way for non-traditional students to further their education. But for many students, our culture hasn’t yet caught up with this trend, including how we view ourselves. Here are six lessons I learned as both a student and a student advisor and reasons you shouldn’t stress about being “perfect.”
1. Take the Shot
Soccer legend Johan Cruyff once said, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot.” Sadly, many potential graduates stop trying because they’re scared to fail. Overcome by feelings of guilt or defeat regarding their past experiences with education, they neglect to submit assignments, drop out of classes, or never even start school.
I know what it was like to finish a thesis with a newborn sleeping on my chest.
I was once asked what the most difficult part of the advising role was. My answer was this: That you inevitably work with a student who has amazing potential and is achieving success but who can’t see it for themselves because they have created a standard and are afraid that they won’t hit it.
2. Perfection is Overrated
Yeah, I said it. Perfection is overrated—and here’s why. Success in today’s workforce means operating with consistency and efficiency. But it also means reacting to issues and mistakes. It means moving a project forward despite less-than-ideal circumstances.
Perfection is certainly one type of success and has its merits, but it’s not the only type. Over and over again the person who makes the biggest impact is the person who experienced their share of failure—and has overcome that failure, including dealing with any negative feelings associated with those experiences. It’s this ability to move forward that makes them ideal to tackle emerging challenges within the workplace.
3. Are Your Goals Helping or Hurting?
Goals are important to the extent that they allow us to create a plan of growth and give direction to our efforts. But some goals may actually lead us down a path of anxiety and stress. Unrealistic expectations can distract us from realizing how far we’ve come.
Take stock of your goals and make sure that they make sense for you. They should be aligned with your overall mission. Make them SMART goals and, if the time comes that you miss a goal, don’t stop moving forward.
4. Learn to Recognize Success
We cannot afford to overlook success. Rather than focus on a result, we should focus on the experience and what we’re taking out of it. I’ve never had anyone ask me what my GPA was in my BA or my MFA degree. Ever. But I’ve implemented powerful advising models because I know what it was like to finish a thesis with a newborn sleeping on my chest, or what it was like to feel insecure about all the things I hadn’t done “the right way.”
A win is a win. If you pass that class, then move on to the next one. Make adjustments. Improve. As long as you’re doing your best and making the most of your classes, then you’re succeeding. And don’t let anyone—and certainly not yourself—tell you otherwise.
Most importantly, don’t let past failures define your future.
5. Forgive Yourself
If things haven’t always gone according to plan, don’t let it weigh you down and stop you from moving forward. Forgive yourself. Change the plan. Celebrate the little moments of success and know that those will turn into big accomplishments. The path to graduation is rarely smooth—at least not the entire time. Be prepared for bumps in the road and deviations from the plan. And then keep moving forward.
6. School is about Learning
Here’s the deal: you’re not supposed to come to Ashford perfect. Your job is to learn and persevere. Making mistakes is a part of that learning. Know the resources available to you and remember that you’re guaranteed to succeed if you never stop moving forward.
Remember that failure is just one bump on the road to success, and your entire school is rooting for you to succeed.
Written by Shawn Mangerino, Lead Student Success Coordinator.