“Smarts” May Not Get You Through College, But This Will

It’s not just you — college can feel like a marathon for many people. But graduating college isn’t necessarily about how smart you are. With enough grit, you can make it through and smile with pride as you strut across the stage on commencement day.

The X-Factor

Researcher and MacArthur fellow Angela Duckworth defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” For most of us, college is a journey that spans years, so the ability to remain tenacious in the face of difficulties is an important tactic to increase the odds of success.

Sure, this may sound easier said than done. College is filled with challenges like homesickness, balancing courses with a job and facing social pressure from friends and family. It’s a lot for anyone to juggle. Even so, grit is the ingredient that gets us through without relying on “smarts” or talent for success.

So how does one cultivate grit?

Ingredients for Grit

Developing grit won’t happen overnight. The good news is anyone can practice building grit no matter where they may be in life’s journey. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself when you feel like you’re hitting a wall:

  • What makes me passionate about achieving my goal? When you first decided to attend college, what motivated you? What excited you about going to college? Along the way, some of us may forget our big “why.” Reflecting on the reason we are where we are can remind us that the end goal is worth the effort to get there.
  • How much have I improved since I started? When we’re in the thick of it, it’s often difficult to remember where we used to be: wishing we were where we are today. Think about how you’ve grown since the beginning of your journey. What lessons have you learned and what new skills or knowledge have you picked up along the way?
  • Despite these obstacles, what can I do to make sure I keep learning? It sucks being stuck or feeling beaten down. When we feel this way, it’s okay to step back, take a breather, and re-examine your next steps. We are always capable of learning something new; it’s just a matter of how we get there. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help too.

Cultivating grit can help us to withstand the rigors of pursuing a long-term goal. Even superheroes feel like giving up sometimes. Somedays, we feel like we’re at the end of our ropes, and on those days, grit can be the thing that gets us through.