How to Overcome a Lack of Academic Confidence


You’re not alone if you worry about keeping up with assignments, understanding the material, using technology or competing with studious classmates. However, a combination of positive mental strategies and instructional guidance can help you overcome any negative learning experiences in your past. Schools offer resources, such as counseling offices, tutoring and life skills courses, to assist students in building self-esteem and strengthening basic abilities. With a positive attitude and determination to succeed, your confidence will grow as you see the results of your efforts.


Practice Positive Self-Talk

  • Positive self-talk can set you on a path to success. Remind yourself on a daily basis that you’re smart, curious and capable of learning. Setting realistic goals and celebrating your accomplishments builds confidence. The Counseling Center at Illinois State University at Urbana-Champaign also recommends telling yourself that you’re not perfect and it’s OK to make mistakes, which provide valuable learning opportunities. If negative messages from former teachers or family members have undermined your confidence, you may benefit from talking to a professional. Schools typically offer counseling services to help students with commonly faced issues, such as low self-esteem and lack of academic confidence.

Enroll in a Student Success Course

  • Freshmen and nontraditional students find it useful to enroll in student success courses to develop the confidence needed to tackle tough college level courses. Students are taught time management strategies, note taking techniques, study tips, research methods and critical thinking skills. Students who acquire these skills feel better prepared for difficult courses ahead. For example, a survey of 198 students enrolled in Cuyamaca College's Personal Development Class found that 62 percent of respondents felt the course gave them greater academic confidence and 72 percent believed their GPA would improve.

Tackle Challenges

  • You can gain confidence in your academic abilities by learning how to leap obstacles between you and success. Instead of questioning your abilities if you’re struggling, focus your energy on problem-solving. Seek help if you don’t understand the material. You can start by clarifying what exactly doesn’t make sense to you. You should come to class with prepared questions. Don’t wait until you’re far behind to visit your instructor during office hours for individual help. Most schools also offer tutoring in several subjects. If that's not the case, ask around to find another student who may be willing to work with you.

Take Risks

  • Although it sounds counterintuitive, you can build self-confidence by pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. For example, if fear is the only thing holding you back from taking an interesting but rigorous course, consider enrolling in the course to convince yourself that you’re a capable student. Tom Burns and Sandra Sinfield, authors of “Teaching, Learning and Study Skills,” report that students progressively gain academic confidence as they face their fears and defeat anxiety. Students may even discover that they enjoy previously intimidating subjects, such as math or public speaking.

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