SOLUTION: Arizona State University Applying Your Talents in Academics Paper

Chapter VII
developing academic
strengths in college
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All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
Gallup®, StrengthsQuest™, StrengthsFinder®, Clifton StrengthsFinder®, and each of the 34 Clifton StrengthsFinder
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Cover design by Chin-Yee Lai
Manufactured in the United States of America
First edition 2002
Second edition 2006
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ISBN 10: 1-59562-011-7
ISBN 13: 978-1-59562-011-8
ou have considered the importance of talents in planning your education to achieve personal strengths. Now, it is time to plot out how
to build on your talents to develop leadership and other strengths directly
related to your college experience.
Four key factors capture the basic aspects you should consider when
planning an education that will lead to personal excellence.
Four Key Factors That Will Determine Your Achievements in
Academics, Career, and Beyond
1. Your beliefs about your talents to achieve
Never underestimate the power of what you believe — it will directly
affect your achievements. What you believe about your talents can affect
whether you will even attempt to achieve. Your beliefs directly influence
your emotions, attitudes, behavior patterns, and motivation.
How well you know, understand, and value your talents
One of our primary goals is to increase your understanding of and appreciation for your greatest talents. This forms the basis for increasing your
confidence and for building achievement patterns.
The extent to which you apply your talents through strengths
You should provide the initiative for designing your education around
your talents. This is likely to produce superior results, because you won’t
be “getting” an education, you’ll be creating one. And it will be based on
who you really are and the person you have the capacity to become.
Your motivations, desires, and goal-setting practices
Numerous studies identify motivation as the single most important factor in academic achievement and graduation from college. Specifically,
they point to two important motivational dynamics: First, you must
have multiple motives for achieving and persisting. Second, these motives must be important to you personally. Having only one reason for
achieving (for example, to make more money or to please someone else)
usually results in lesser achievement.
Four Tips for Developing Academic Strengths in College
Your overall academic experience can be greatly enhanced by the
perspective and direction you take in setting goals and making key decisions. Consider these four suggestions.
1. Define college success in terms of maximizing your talents
through strengths development.
If you are going to assume responsibility for your college experience, you
must come to grips with defining success for yourself.
So, what is the best outcome of college that you can imagine? Most
people would say getting a 4.0 GPA, graduating Magna Cum Laude,
getting a well-paying job, or gaining admission to medical school, law
school, or some other graduate or professional school. These are good,
but your considerations should go well beyond your college years.
Defining college success in terms of identifying and building upon your
greatest talents emphasizes building yourself into a person of excellence.
Select classes on the basis of your talents and strengths.
Considering your talents is particularly important as you select classes
for the early portion of your college education. In these first couple of
years, it is especially important to build your confidence by following
your talents. Far too many students who enroll in college never graduate, and many of those who drop out do so in the first year. Why? Quite
frequently, the reason is that they have selected classes that don’t suit their
talents. As a result, they don’t experience the success they expected, and
then they become frustrated and disillusioned and eventually give up.
Be sure to continue to apply the strengths approach during the rest
of your college career. This means that every time you select your classes,
ask yourself two questions: (1) Which of my talents will I be able to apply in this class? and (2) What strengths will this class help me create? If
you don’t know the answer to either of these questions, get more information about the classes you are considering. If you have to say “none”
to both questions, you must ask yourself why you are enrolling in the
class in the first place.
These comments may be controversial, so let’s be clear: We are not
anti-liberal arts, nor are we trying to undermine the need for all students
Developing Academic Strengths in College
to have certain basic skills. We are certainly not trying to limit students’
exploration of new fields.
What we oppose is educational practices that give students placement tests to find out what students can’t do or don’t know — and then
force them to focus first on where they struggle before they can learn
about their most naturally powerful talents.
Consider your talents when selecting extracurricular activities.
To gain maximum benefits from college, think about college as a total experience in which you purposely become as deeply involved as possible. This
means making college the focal point of your life. Becoming personally
involved might include forming study groups, meeting with professors,
and making use of campus programs and services. If possible, live on
campus or near campus — and with other students — or at least form
close relationships with people from college.
As you make decisions about extracurricular involvement, seek opportunities to build on your talents in strengths development. For example, form relationships with professors and students who share your
talents. Become involved in clubs and organizations that provide opportunities for you to use or develop strengths.
4. Choose your college jobs by considering the opportunities they
provide to develop strengths by following your talents.
Most college students must work in order to make ends meet. That is a
reality, but it is also true that employment during college presents another opportunity to build on your talents. Therefore, carefully consider
where you’ll be employed and what type of work you’ll do. The most
ideal situation would be (1) to work on campus so you can increase your
involvement, and (2) to work in a job where you can use and build on at
least some of your most natural talents. That way, you will be doing more
than just earning money.
Strategies for Applying Your Talents in Academics
To help you determine how you can best apply your greatest talents toward strengths in academics, we have collected feedback from
thousands of top-achieving college students. Through interviews, focus
groups, case studies, and surveys, we have gathered insights about how
these successful students perceived and applied their most powerful talents in several areas of academics.
Now, it’s time to take a look at strategies that can help you use talents in your Signature Themes for achievement in various aspects of
your academic life. Once again, locate and examine the strategies that
are customized to your Signature Themes. As you do this, you may want
to consider the items that are already helping you achieve and those that
may help you achieve at an even greater level of excellence.
Developing Academic Strengths in College
applying your talents
in academics
Achiever in Academics
Applying Achiever Talents in Academics
These insights and action ideas can help you apply Achiever talents to
achieve in various aspects of your academic life.
General Academic Life
 Set at least one clearly defined and measurable goal for each of
your courses at the beginning of the term. Document your progress toward every objective in an academic-achievement journal.
 Identify the most important fact, philosophy, concept, or law
you learn in each class each week. Notice recurring patterns. Pinpoint discoveries.
 Set one or two “stretch” targets, such as earning a specific gradepoint average, winning honors status, or being named to the
dean’s list.
 Ask to review papers, projects, research studies, or tests of several
students who consistently earn higher grades in a class than you
do. Try to equal or surpass one or two things they do.
 Seek opportunities to apply several of the ideas and concepts you
have learned. Address groups and conduct demonstrations so
others can benefit from what you know.
 Ask each of your professors to clarify their expectations for your
performance. Emphasize that you intend to exceed the minimum course requirements.
Study Techniques
 Review your goals-achievement log. Look for evidence that you
are progressing toward your objectives. Outline the steps you
took to acquire one particular skill or master one key concept.
 Pay close attention to your body clock. Decide when your mind
is most alert. Use this insight to your advantage when scheduling
time to study.
 Decide whether your productivity, efficiency, and ability to retain essential information increases when you study with a tutor,
a classmate, a group, or alone.
Achiever in Academics
 Observe classmates to discover who shares your commitment to
hard work. Form a study group composed of individuals who
invest time, effort, and energy in scholarly pursuits.
 Reach consensus as a study group about attendance, starting and
ending times of meetings, strategies to eliminate distractions,
and the sharing of class notes.
 List everything you must do to prepare for a test, complete a
project, conduct research, or finish an assignment. Prioritize activities. Set a deadline for each one. Then methodically carry out
your plan.
 Intentionally nurture friendships with people who are as driven
as you are.
 Talk to students taking advanced-level courses in your major
field. Ask them to describe the choices they made in the past
that contribute to their success today.
 Realize that your natural inclination to study for as long as it
takes inspires other achievers. Learn the names of these individuals. Add them to your study buddy network.
 Seek opportunities to work with professors on research projects,
laboratory experiments, and writing for publications.
Class Selection
 Choose challenging, effective classes taught by instructors who
have reputations for helping students reach their educational
 Sequence the order in which you take classes. Each term, enroll
in one course that is more demanding than any you have ever
taken. Repeat this process each semester.
 Recruit diligent, serious, and earnest students to register for the
same demanding classes you are taking. Realize that you will
challenge one another to excel.
Activator in Academics
 Sign up for classes that cover unfamiliar topics. Understand that
you are motivated by challenges.
Extracurricular Activities
 Join clubs that have members who share your strong work ethic.
 Advance toward your academic and career goals by enrolling in
rigorous classes, volunteering on campus, performing community service, working part time, and participating in intramural
or extramural sports.
 Elect to join organizations where your accomplishments will be
recognized. Choose groups with goals that align with your own.
Insist on establishing deadlines for reaching each objective.
Applying Activator Talents in Academics
These insights and action ideas can help you apply Activator talents to
achieve in various aspects of your academic life.
General Academic Life
 Initiate classroom discussions. Suggest topics. Take sides in debates. Help your fellow students learn faster and learn more.
 Find the answers to questions that you anticipate the instructor
will ask on upcoming tests and quizzes.
 Instigate conversations with your peers outside the classroom.
Center these on topics related to a recent lecture given by your
instructor or a visiting professor.
 Take charge of small-group conversations, projects, presentations, and experiments. Distinguish yourself by transforming
plans into tangible results.
 Waste no time finishing the first draft of a writing assignment.
Immediately seek feedback from a teaching assistant or your
professor. Incorporate some of their constructive suggestions in
your second draft.
Activator in Academics
Study Techniques
 Lead study groups. Participate in the life of the mind. Urge
members to share their best ideas. Give timid individuals permission to explore topics, raise questions, and work on projects.
 Jot down one or two key thoughts as you read an article, story,
or the directions from a project. Use these insights to shape the
group’s discussions.
 Draw quiet individuals into conversations, debates, planning,
and discussions. Call on them by name. Probe when they respond to questions with one- or two-word answers.
 Read ahead to prepare for class lectures. Compose two or three
questions not offered in the textbook to ask your instructor. Intentionally change the classroom atmosphere from one of passive listening to active participation.
 Stay physically active to remain mentally engaged in your studies. Eat. Pace. Take breaks to stretch. Test your ideas with your
study group. Press for their honest opinions.
 Surround yourself with individuals who are restless to start working on projects and assignments. Associate with people who welcome and respond to your directives.
 Identify classmates who automatically know when the time for
planning has expired and the time for action has arrived.
 Initiate conversations with professors outside the classroom.
Make appointments with them to confirm expectations, clarify
course requirements, and establish deadlines.
 Volunteer to chair group discussions, facilitate brainstorming
sessions, or spearhead projects. Observe your classmates’ relief at
not having to be in charge.
Activator in Academics
Class Selection
 Choose a major field of study about which you are passionate.
Realize your success hinges on your being fully engaged. Opt for
courses that involve hands-on activities, lively verbal exchanges,
and interesting experiments.
 Check the course syllabus for information about projects, field
trips, extra reading, and independent study options. Avoid classes that restrict your pace and methods. Honor your need for
speedy results and changes of pace.
 Attack your assignments immediately. Refuse to procrastinate.
Turn in your work ahead of schedule. Enjoy the satisfaction of
being done. Analyze how you avoid the pitfalls of “analysis paralysis” and excessive preparation.
 Persuade your professor to give you permission to invent your
own assignments with the understanding that they must satisfy
the course requirements and learning objectives.
Extracurricular Activities
 Join clubs and try out for athletic teams with jam-packed rosters
of events. Avoid groups with a reputation for meeting a lot but
accomplishing very little.
 Volunteer for activities such as constructing a Habitat for Humanity® house, serving as a Big Brother or Big Sister, acting
in community theatre productions, conducting nature walks,
running to raise funds for worthwhile causes, or coaching a
youth team.
 Be the change agent for a stalled project. Study the original action
plan. Determine why momentum was lost. Convince group members they can put the undertaking back on course. Recruit several
energetic individuals to help implement the new initiative.
 Campaign for an office in campus government. Influence potential voters to cast their ballots for you.
Adaptability in Academics
Applying Adaptability Talents in Academics
These insights and action ideas can help you apply Adaptability talents
to achieve in various aspects of your academic life.
General Academic Life
 Live in the moment. Calm yourself before an exam with positive
self-talk. Recall your personal history of dealing with surprises
on tests.
 Leverage your ability not to feel overwhelmed by multifaceted
assignments. Document three to five instances during the day
when you successfully juggled competing tasks.
 Understand that you can balance academic demands with social commitments, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs.
Describe how you managed to make progress on all fronts last
 Challenge yourself by taking courses that involve experiments.
Compare your flexibility to that of various classmates. Notice
how you make adjustments to produce desired outcomes.
Study Techniques
 Analyze your study habits. Do you plan and then improvise as
circumstances change? Or do you improvise minute by minute
rather than plan?
 Choose study partners who are serious yet share your easy-going,
relaxed work style. Avoid individuals who are tense and anxious.
Make a list of potential study buddies.
 Look for irony, humor, and the unexpected in your studies.
Stimulate your own and others’ thinking by discussing the relevance of each discovery.
 Make notes about how your study habits vary depending on the
situation. Ask yourself these questions: Do I need the pressure of
a test or deadline to force me to study? When am I most likely to
ignore intriguing distractions? Least likely?
Adaptability in Academics
 Designate places to which you can retreat when you need to give
your full attention to your studies. Choose venues where the
potential for interruptions and extraneous noise is significantly
 Surround yourself with individuals who, like you, pause to take
in the world’s loveliness as it appears. Identify people who automatically put aside what they are doing to watch a sunset, listen
to rustling leaves, or enjoy the arts.
 Help classmates, coworkers, and friends overcome difficulties
that stymie their progress. Capitalize on your ability to take
things as they are rather than rail against life’s surprises.
 Encourage some people to turn to you when plans must be modified or altogether scrapped. List the people who realize you are
approachable and responsive.
 Invite one or two highly organized and time-conscious people to
become your study buddies. Discuss ahead of time how they can
help you be more efficient. Explain how you can infuse fun into
their studies.
Class Selection
 Follow your interests when choosing classes. Keep your options
for a major open until you have explored several disciplines.
Partner with an advisor who can help you accelerate your decision-making process to avoid additional tuition costs.
 Register for more classes than you intend to take. After the first
week of class, drop elective courses you find uninteresting.
 Transfer out of classes taught by instructors whose teaching style
bores you. Transfer into the classes of professors who stimulate
students’ thinking.
 Take advantage of the drop-add period. Note the date by which
you must complete this process without risking a failing grade or
loss of money.
Analytical in Academics
Extracurricular Activities
 Join organizations that sponsor events that demand flexibility in
terms of planning as well as execution. Capitalize on your ability
to monitor and adjust.
 Convince teammates of the importance of not fighting change.
Outline the benefits of letting go of the original plan in order to
try a new process.
 Recall two or three instances where you successfully redirected
the emotional energy of people paralyzed by unexpected news or
sudden changes in the group’s plans.

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