By Haylee Uptergrove
Cell phones, social media and Netflix: the college student’s perfect trifecta for avoiding homework. Throw in a nap and hanging out with friends, and it is the perfect recipe for the phenomenon that plagues most college students: procrastination.
Procrastination is something studies show students start dealing with early on in their collegiate years, often a habit that dates back to high school.
According to a 2007 meta-analysis by the University of Calgary psychologist Piers Steel, 80 to 95 percent of college students procrastinate regularly, particularly when it comes to doing homework and studying.
Rachel Meyers, a junior finance major, said these statistics do not surprise her.
“We have so much free time,” she said. “You only go to class 12, 15, 18 hours, and then the rest of the time is yours to do with what you want. You don’t have anyone telling you where to be and what to do.”
Kirsten Nettles, a junior chemistry major, echoed Meyers’ sentiments.
“I think that it’s definitely something college students struggle with all the time,” she said. “I think it’s something that gets better as you get older, but it’s also something you can always fall back in.”
Nettles said as a college student, she has had to adjust to not having her parents and teachers offer direction as they did in high school. This lack of guidance has opened the door for procrastination to step in.
“It’s like an old habit because you don’t have anyone there to tell you you need to do this, or you need to set time aside for this,” she said. “That just kind of makes it a little bit more difficult.”
Nettles said her favorite form of procrastination involves Netflix and a nap, while Meyers said she is far more likely to study what is happening on social media than in her textbooks.
According to research conducted by the education technology company StudyMode, Meyers and Nettles are not alone. Researchers found watching TV or Netflix ranked as the number one cause of procrastination among college students; social media was not far behind. Their study also showed 56 percent of female college students and 45 percent of male college students listed sleep as one of the things they are most likely to do when they should be studying.
While StudyMode reported that procrastination negatively impacted 45 percent of students’ grades on at least a fairly regular basis, Gala Meyers, a recent Tech graduate, voiced a different opinion.
“Procrastination makes me wait until I have to do something,” she said, “but then I when I do it, I typically do it a little bit quicker and at a much better pace than if I’d done it a week before.”
Gala Meyers said in her opinion, she often turned in better quality work when she waited to get started on it.
“It’s like an adrenaline rush,” she said. “It actually helps me, because a deadline is very good for me.”
Research indicates that Gala Meyers’ approach may be the best option for some students.
Jin Nam Choi, a business professor at Seoul National University in South Korea, conducted a study for The Journal of Social Psychology to differentiate between two types of procrastinators: passive procrastinators and active procrastinators.
According to Choi, passive procrastinators are those who postpone tasks until the last minute because of a personal inability to act in a timely manner. On the other hand, Choi described active procrastinators as those who prefer the pressure of a time crunch and purposefully decide to delay a task, but are still able to complete their work before deadlines and achieve satisfactory results.
Through a series of tests conducted among a group of 230 undergraduates from three Canadian universities, Choi found although active procrastinators reported the same level of procrastination as their traditional, passive counterparts, these students demonstrated a far more productive use of time.
Active procrastinators also showed more adaptive coping styles, and their academic performance outcomes were nearly identical to — and occasionally better than — those of non-procrastinators.
However, for Rachel Meyers, she said it is quite easy to tell the difference between a deliberate delay of action, and simply a lack of motivation and self-discipline. She said as she has gotten older, she has found ways to deal with the procrastination problem so many students struggle with.
“I’ve definitely gotten better,” she said. “Getting more involved, getting a little bit more structure, getting a job… That helped me because I knew when my deadlines were coming, and I only had so much time that I could do my work.”
Gala Meyers said she believes what it ultimately comes down to is what each student finds works best for them individually.
“In college you can do whatever you want, which is, in some ways, beautiful, and in some ways, can be very self destructive,”she said. “You learn what works for you and what the best times are for you and stuff like that, so you get better as time goes on for sure.”