By: Jon Thomas, EdD, and Pamela Barton
Changing Academic Self-Image: How I Went From “College Isn’t For Me” to College Success
– By Ben Norton
“College isn’t for me.” During high school many experiences helped form this belief. Guidance Counselors said, “Maybe you should just learn a trade”. Teachers frequently told me, “If you don’t work harder you won’t make it.” Throughout this time, I felt I simply couldn’t keep up with my peers academically.
By graduation this belief had become so strong that I assumed no matter how hard I tried at college I would fail. Much to my chagrin and that of my parents, that’s exactly what happened. I attended Northern Virginia Community College right after high school because it was “the thing to do”. I had no ideas about my career path, what I wanted to study, or when these studies would end. I floundered about without direction and lacked the confidence that I could succeed academically. I wound up on academic probation after my first semester and left college at the end of the second semester.
In the years that followed I worked at various jobs and experienced little success. The possibilities I did encounter were limited by my lack of education. After working my way up the ladder at companies, I would inevitably hit a ceiling.
Eventually I realized I needed help, and found programs and counseling geared specifically to my challenges. As I began the work, I realized that my old high school beliefs were still active and limiting me. I focused on understanding that the beliefs were not based upon my abilities, but upon my experiences. And my experiences had more to do with my limited motivation and organization strategies than my abilities and intelligence. A final part of my work involved a process of updating my beliefs so that they were more consistent with my true possibilities.
After completing this belief change process*, I went back to Northern Virginia Community College where I implemented my goal of completing an Associates program and transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University. With my new beliefs intact and strategies at work, I made the dean’s list my first semester. The second semester I made Presidential Scholar. Now entering my final semester at VCU, my grades are exemplary and my success continues. I attribute this success to the belief change process I undertook.
Upon finishing my undergrad, I will continue to graduate school. I fully believe I will succeed there too.
*The Belief Change Process is an integral component of The ADHD College Success Guidance Program. During the workshops, participants examine and update limiting beliefs as they apply to academics, career, and other areas of their life path.