Education Standards

"Learning for College Achievement" (textbook)


Textbook designed for students who are entering college.  The textbook aligns with the Texas Common Core Community College Course "EDUC 1300: Learning Framework"



    Learning for College Achievement

picture of author graduating


Dr. Adam Weiss


Assistant Professor of Education,


West Texas A&M University


Canyon, TX


Licensed under Creative Commons License, CC-BY-NC-SA


Ch. 1: Transitioning to Higher Education



            This chapter will provide an introduction to higher education. The chapter begins with an overview of the different forms of higher education, or post-secondary education.  Since the intended audience for this textbook include community college and university students, the next section of the chapter will discuss the increased academic rigors related to college academics.  Then, the chapter will detail the essential materials that college students will need to be prepared for their coursework.  While subsequent chapters will provide the reader with a thorough explanation of study skills, time management methods, and learning strategies, this chapter will offer some general suggestions for academic success in college.  Finally, the chapter will explain how students should abide by academic ethics and honor standards.



Image of student studying.

Association of Students Cerritos College (ASCC.)"  SupportPDX.


Forms of Higher Education

            Students who graduate from high school or earn their GED have several options for continuing their studies.  These options include attending a two-year community college, trade school, four-year liberal arts college, and/or a university.  Each of these options will be discussed in detail below.


Community Colleges


Most community colleges are two-year colleges that receive public funding from tax revenues. For this reason, community colleges are often one of the most economical forms of post-secondary education.  Many students who attend community college pursue associates degrees and/or technical certifications, which provide direct training and qualifications for a variety of professions and fields.  Other students choose to use community college as an affordable and convenient stepping stone to attending a four-year college or university.  Regardless of which path students take, many community colleges require students to have foundational skills in math, reading, and writing, as all courses will likely require students to utilize some of these skills as part of the coursework.  For this reason, some students may take developmental coursework to ensure that their math, reading, and writing skills are at a level that will support students’ academic success in their college coursework. 



Picture of Students Graduating

       "College of DuPage 2014 Commencement Ceremony 167." COD Newsroom.


Trade Schools

Trade schools often feature professional training programs that will provide students with certifications in fields such as heating and air conditioning, welding, plumbing, medical billing and coding, auto mechanics, cosmetology, culinary arts and others.  Trade school programs often are structured to be completed within two years or less, and the curriculum primarily focuses on the students’ particular area of specialization.  While some trades or companies offer their own trade school, many trade schools are for-profit institutions. For this reason, trade school may be a relatively expensive proposition for higher education, since many community colleges also offer similar courses, but at a fraction of the cost.


Four-Year Liberal Arts Colleges


            Four-year liberal arts colleges offer students the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree and are generally private institutions.  Many liberal arts colleges are known for their programs in the humanities (languages, literature, philosophy, and the arts) as well as for their programs in the social sciences (history, education, criminal justice, sociology, political science, and economics).  However, many liberal arts colleges also provide students with opportunities to take mathematics, science, and engineering courses.  Liberal Arts college professors primarily focus on educating students rather than engaging in original research.  Moreover, when compared to universities, liberal arts colleges often feature reduced class sizes, lower student-teacher ratios, and smaller overall student populations.




            Universities offer degree options in a variety of academic areas, spanning the physical sciences, engineering fields, social sciences, humanities, and fine arts.  Universities prove unique among post-secondary institutions in their offering of bachelor’s degrees (undergraduate degrees) and graduate degrees (master’s and/or doctoral degrees).  As mentioned earlier in the discussion of liberal arts colleges, bachelor’s degrees are designed for full-time students to complete within four years.  After a student receives her or his bachelor’s degree, the student can pursue a graduate degree.  Graduate degrees often provide students with specialized, professional training for particular professions such as education, engineering, law, business, and medicine.  Graduate degrees can include degrees such as master’s degrees, juris doctorate (law) degrees, medical degrees, and doctoral degrees in a particular academic field (Ph.D.s).  Master’s degrees generally take between 1-2 years for a full-time student to complete, and if the student chooses to continue with her or his studies, the student can pursue a doctoral degree which can take a full-time student an additional 3- 7 years depending on the program (medical doctors often attend more years of schooling). 


While universities can be either public or private, universities will often have significant student enrollments.  Indeed, small universities may have one thousand to ten thousand students, but large public universities may have over fifty thousand students.   For this reason, universities often have larger class sizes compared to liberal arts colleges.  Most public universities have lower tuition rates compared to private liberal arts colleges and private universities.  Also, due to their size and student population, universities may offer additional college sports and extracurricular options for students compared to community colleges and liberal arts colleges. 


Furthermore, universities support academic research to add to the existing knowledge base.  For this reason, universities have been the source for many important theories, works of art and literature, scientific developments, technologies, and medicines.  The vast majority of universities encourage their professors to not only teach courses in their field but to also engage in original research.  Thus, professors distribute their time between teaching classes, mentoring students, and their research agendas.

One thing to note is that liberal arts colleges and universities are more likely to have rigorous admissions standards for students.  In order to enroll, students will need a minimum grade point average from their prior coursework (either in high school or at community college). Students will often have to meet a particular level of performance on standardized tests and/or college admission essays.  The last chapter of this textbook will provide more specifics about preparing for transferring to four year colleges or universities.



Transitioning to College


Picture of students eating lunch.

"Friends, Cerritos College.” SupportPDX.


The academic structure, assignments, and thinking processes required for college academics proves particularly distinct from those utilized in most high schools.  In terms of structure, traditional college courses only meet in person a few days per week generally for 1-2 hours during each meeting.  College courses in the same field of study, or major, may be offered in a variety of locations and buildings across the college campus.  Students may even take some courses in person on one campus during some days of the week but then take other courses on another campus for other days of the week.  Also, many colleges offer online courses, in which students complete all of their coursework online, often asynchronously (on their own schedule).  Many colleges and universities further give students the option to take hybrid courses in which some parts of the class will be held in person and other aspects of the course will be completed online. 

            College courses often have more students than high school classes.  Because of this, during class time, college students may receive less individualized interaction with their professor.  Many college classes feature a lecture, or lengthy lesson, led by the professor.  Frequently, college courses also provide opportunities for students to ask questions or to engage in learning activities after the professor’s lecture. While the format of college courses will differ according to each professor’s teaching style, students can rest assured that they will have opportunities to ask questions and receive individualized help if needed. Professors set office hours in which they make time available to meet with students, answer questions, and provide individualized support.  Most professors will publish their office hours in their syllabus or on their campus office door.  Department offices will likely have a list of office hours for each professor in their department.  Students can also send an email to professors to schedule an appointment to meet during office hours.  Most colleges and universities also offer free tutoring services for students.  Many colleges even offer math, science, and writing tutoring centers where students can walk-in and receive support on their course assignments. 

Image of Rows of Students in Lecture Hall

 "Large lecture college classes." Kevin Dooley.


            The structure of college academic assignments also proves significantly different than the structure of high school assignments.  In general, college courses have fewer assignments throughout the semester, but the assignments require significantly more time than high school assignments.  Each college assignment will often have a significant amount of weight/compose a significant percentage of the entire course grade.  Thus, college students would be wise to complete all assignments by their assigned due date, as missing even one college assignment can many times lead to a failing semester grade.  Many college classes will have exams as one of the assessments for the course.  Often, courses that feature exams will have at least one midterm (a major exam during the middle part of the semester), and a final exam at the end of the semester.  Most courses that have exams will make the exams worth a significant part of the total course grade, so it is imperative that students thoroughly prepare ahead of time for the exams.  As will be discussed in the next section, in college, students are responsible for providing their own materials for the exam such as writing utensils, answer sheets, and writing booklets.  Students must bring these materials on the exam day in order to receive credit. Unlike in high school when some teachers will allow students to “make-up” tests if students are absent, many college professors do not allow students to take exams on a date outside the official, scheduled date for the exam.


As a whole, college courses also require significantly more writing assignments than high school courses.  Many exams will have short-answer or essay portions of the exam, and many courses will require separate writing assignments.  For example, college courses regularly require short writing assignments such as reading responses, journal entries, and/or online discussion board posts.  College courses in the humanities and social sciences will often assign essay assignments that require several pages of writing.  One assignment that is common in these liberal arts courses is a research paper in which students will need to read academic articles, books, and texts.  Then, students will synthesize the information in their own words and write about how the various academic texts relate to each other. 


Regardless of whether a college assignment is labeled a formal “research paper,” most college writing assignments will require students to justify their thinking by providing evidence from academic texts such as academic journal articles, textbooks, published academic books, and/or literary texts.  Students can provide evidence for their position or conclusions by discussing how authors’ theories, facts, and/or research findings support students’ arguments in their writing.  Whenever students refer back to another author’s work or ideas, students should make sure to cite the original author (the topics of citation and attributing credit to the original author will be discussed in further detail in Part 5 of this chapter). 


Moreover, in order for students to be successful in college, students will need to develop their critical thinking skills.  Bloom and colleagues (1956) established a ranking system related to thinking skills that classified thinking into lower-level, basic thinking skills and higher-order, critical thinking skills (Bloom et al.,1956).  For the purposes of this chapter, the definitions of lower-level thinking and higher-order, critical thinking will follow Bloom and colleagues’ work.  While students may have been able to get by in high school by primarily using lower level thinking skills such as memorizing facts or describing concepts that were previously taught, students in college will often be asked to use higher-order thinking skills, or critical thinking skills.  Critical thinking skills encourage students to think for themselves, to make connections across diverse concepts, and to represent their overall knowledge in a cohesive way.  Specifically, critical thinking skills include the ability to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create information.

In college, students will be asked to take what they learned in class or from reading the textbook and apply the concept to a new situation.  Some examples of assignments that require application include case study assignments, problem sets, and service learning opportunities, such as internships.  Students in their coursework will, likewise, regularly analyze the relationship between distinct pieces of information.  Students will also be required to analyze relationships of theories and concepts that appear across various academic disciplines.   For example, many assignments require students to compare and contrast two concepts, articles, or situations.  Other assignments require students to use analysis to break a greater concept or problem into smaller parts or entities. On the other hand, other assignments may require students to piece together apparently disparate facts, concepts, or skills to develop an overarching conclusion or cohesive product.   College professors regularly ask students to make evaluations and judgements in which students will justify their thinking through referencing their previous learning, skills, and personal experiences.  Other evaluative assignments ask students to critique, rank, or determine the relative importance of works of art, technologies, theories, or philosophies.  Furthermore, students will often create their own, original representations of their learning as part of their coursework.  Students may write research papers that interpret a topic in a unique way, compose their own works of art, use new methods to solve mathematical or scientific problems, or create projects that represent students’ learning through visuals and technology.


 As the reader can see, college professors will rarely ask students to merely regurgitate information, memorize vocabulary and key dates, and complete worksheets. While students may be asked to initially learn essential facts or concepts or to take notes on their learning, students will later need to extend their thinking beyond basic, lower-level, thinking.  For the vast majority of their college coursework, students will need to utilize the critical thinking skills discussed above of analysis, application, evaluation, and creation.  In other words, students will use what they have been taught to make their own connections and interpretations of the content through harnessing their prior knowledge, previous experiences, and analytical skills.  While it may appear daunting to the new college student to think that their courses will be more rigorous in nature and require deeper levels of thinking, the student should not fret.  Subsequent chapters of this book will provide students with strategies on how to expand their academic and analytical abilities. 



            Required Materials



In contrast to public high school students, college students not only pay for each of their courses in the form of tuition and student fees, but also purchase materials for their courses.  These materials can include textbooks, assigned readings, activity books or lab manuals, preparation materials, note-taking materials, computer programs, and answer recording materials for taking exams.  Each college course should provide students with a syllabus, which outlines the required course materials, textbooks, and assignments for the course.  Syllabi also often contain important information such as lecture topics, assigned readings, assignment deadlines, and exam dates.  Most colleges and universities make syllabi available online through their websites.  If the syllabus is not available through the college website, students should contact their professor or the department office of the course that students are taking (as a general rule, students should contact the professor first and give the professor a few days to respond before contacting the department office).  Syllabi are basically free course organizers and calendars, so students should regularly review each course’s syllabus.  It is recommended that students review the syllabus for each of their courses at least a week before the first day of class.  Students should continue to regularly review their syllabi each week (or even each day) during the semester. 



Image of Student with Backpack


    "College Student in Park."  CollegeDegrees360.


            Apart from purchasing textbooks and other reading materials for courses, many science or mathematics courses that have laboratory sections will specify students to buy laboratory manuals for those courses.  Laboratory manuals often contain both content information as well as laboratory activities and/or assignments for students to complete.  Some professors may also ask students to purchase other course or preparation materials such as review charts, canvases, instruments, tools, computer programs, and other supplies related to the course.  While the syllabus may not explicitly state this, students should always carry with them a pen, pencil, notebook or note taking device, scantron, and essay exam booklet on their person when they attend each class.  Scantrons are answer recording sheets that are used for multiple choice exams, while essay exam booklets are mini-notebooks issued by the college in which students can write their responses for essay exams.  Both scantrons and essay exam booklets should be readily available at the college bookstore for purchase at a minimal price.  College bookstores also sell course textbooks, and college bookstores often possess a list of required course materials for each course before the start of the semester.  Thus, the college bookstore may be a useful resource while students await to receive their syllabus for a given course.  Just like shopping for groceries, clothes, and electronics, students would be wise to research various prices online and compare them to the university bookstore prices to find the best deal.  One benefit of purchasing course materials at the college bookstore, however, is that the bookstore will likely provide a “one-stop shop” for all textbooks and course materials, saving the student time from shopping for items at various stores or websites.  Also, students may have an easier time returning unused materials to the college bookstore, and college bookstores often will purchase back from students used textbooks and course materials that are in good condition. 


            Some courses may require students to purchase a particular computer program or software.  Additionally, most professors will require written assignments to be completed using a computer-based word processor.  However, almost every college or university will offer free access to computers and the internet to students.  Students may have to pay to print pages from the school-provided computers and printers, but even then, printing costs are often very minimal.  Nevertheless, many students choose to purchase a computer or laptop and a printer for college.  Yet, this decision is primarily based on students’ preferences and budget.  As mentioned earlier, students will likely have free access to computers, the internet, printers, and even required computer software through their campus library.  For students who choose to purchase their own computer or laptop, most colleges and universities will provide free access to the internet for students who sign-in to the internet network using their student credentials. 



Making a Plan for Success


Image of Student with Books on Grass

"Modern Languages at Finger Lakes Community College - Costa Rica 2013." LeafLanguages.



            Although later chapters will provide a much more comprehensive discussion of studying skills, work habits, and learning strategies, the present chapter will provide college students with some brief, actionable guidelines which students can immediately apply to improve their learning outcomes.  One of the most important skills that college students will need to acquire in order to be successful is time management.  Apart from providing a stimulating academic life, college offers countless extracurricular opportunities for students such as participating in student-led social or academic organizations, serving in student government, engaging in sports and recreation activities, attending fine arts exhibits, or serving the community through volunteerism and political activism.  Indeed, if students so desired, students could literally spend all of their waking hours participating in extracurricular activities and would still likely not be able to complete all of the extracurricular offerings available at their college.  Moreover, many students spend a significant part of their time working to help pay for college and other expenses. 


Thus, it is advised that college students construct a schedule for their time.   Students should make sure that they schedule time for consistent, nutritious meals.  Students should further establish a regular sleeping routine in which students receive at least 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.  Apart from first scheduling time to eat and sleep, students should schedule daily time to engage in some kind of physical exercise as this not only supports students’ physical health, but also helps students to alleviate stress.  After scheduling time for eating, sleeping, and exercising, students should schedule time for academics.  Students should begin by reserving time in their weekly schedule to attend each of their courses. 


Apart from attending class regularly, students will need to adopt regular studying habits in which students dedicate their time to reading their assigned course readings, reviewing notes, and completing course assignments.  In fact, unlike high school where the majority of academic preparation occurs during class time, college is structured so that the majority of students’ academic preparation, study, and assignments will occur outside the designated course time.  In fact, for every course or course hour that a student takes, students should prepare to spend at least two to three hours per week studying and preparing for the course in addition to the time students already spend in class (Macalester College, n.d.). When students have allocated sufficient time for healthy living and studying, students can then choose to distribute their remaining hours in the way that they see fit between extracurricular activities, social activities, and employment. 


            In addition to creating a weekly schedule, students should also establish a calendar for their semester in which they write down key dates for each of their classes such as assignment due dates, exam dates, and study session opportunities.  In their calendar, students can also choose to record relevant dates for their extracurricular and/or work activities.  The author recommends that students review and update their calendar each day to ensure that students are staying abreast of all important due dates.  A good activity right before the semester starts is for students to read through each of their syllabi and write down key deadlines and exam dates on their calendar before the first day of class.  This way, students can feel prepared and organized at the very start of the semester. 


Next, students will benefit from finding a study partner, and if possible, a study group. Even if a student prefers to study alone, the student will likely appreciate having a study partner who studies at the same time and who holds the student accountable.  However, students should pick a person who is responsible and organized.  Students should also choose a partner who has good study habits and who will not be a distraction.  Students who take the same course or who take courses in the same discipline may even benefit from creating a study group.  Students who participate in study groups regularly meet to discuss course content, ask their study group questions, and provide academic support for each other. Similar to choosing a study partner, a good study group features students who are responsible, who remain on-task, and who positively influence others.




Ensuring Academic Honesty and Avoiding Plagiarism



            At the college and university level, academic honesty holds utmost importance.  When colleges and universities confer degrees to students, these institutions are certifying that students are prepared to serve in the professional workspace in an area related to students’ academic major, or field of study.  For this reason as well as many others, colleges and universities strive to ensure that each student’s grades in their coursework accurately represent that particular student’s knowledge and abilities.  Academic honesty entails following the rules and guidelines that professors and institutions establish for academic coursework and assignments. Academic honesty also refers to maintaining overall academic standards when it comes to appropriate academic behavior.  This section of the chapter will first begin by discussing academic honesty as it relates to studying and the completion of assignments.  Later, the section will detail how students writing academic papers should respect and provide credit to the original author’s work through the use of paraphrase and academic citations. 


Image of Students Editing Papers in Computer Lab

"Putting the Finishing Touches on a Research Paper." Theunquietlibrary.


            As mentioned earlier, colleges and universities mandate that all students and employees abide by academic honesty.  At most universities, students who violate academic honor codes  and engage in academic dishonesty are subject to discipline sanctions that can include expulsion from the university.  Academic dishonesty includes cheating, collusion, manipulating the academic system for unfair advantage, and taking another person’s work without consulting the original author and/or giving due credit to the original author. Students should refer to their institutions’ specific academic honor codes as well as the assignment requirements created by each of their professors.  Although each institution may have particular honor standards, the author recommends students to follow these general guidelines:


  1.  Unless explicitly stated otherwise by the professor of a course, students should assume that all of their work for a course should be their own, original work that has not been published or submitted for another course (either by that student or another person). In other words, students should not submit assignments that they, themselves, or others have already submitted for another class. 
  2.  If a professor has not directly told students that they may work with a partner or group, students should complete all assignments such as problem sets, papers, quizzes, and exams independently.  Students must refrain from discussing particular questions from problem sets, quizzes, and exams with others.  Students are also not allowed to share their work with others without professors’ consent.

  3. Without being provided access by the professor, students should not obtain access to previously administered quizzes, exams, or assignments.
  4. Students should never look at or copy another student’s work.  The only exception for this would be if a professor informs students that they may complete the assignment as a collaborative assignment (partner or group assignment).
  5. Students who copy word for word from a text such as an article, website, textbook, or book must include the copied text in quotation marks, citing the original author.  (Please note, as a general rule, students should use quotations sparingly; instead, students should paraphrase the original work in their own words, while still giving credit to the author).  


            As mentioned earlier, these five aforementioned guidelines are merely general recommendations for students to follow to maintain academic honesty.  The above guidelines do not replace each individual institution’s particular guidelines.  Students must first and foremost adhere to their specific institution’s guidelines.


Another principle standard in academia is to provide adequate attribution to the original author, researcher, or creator that has inspired the present work at hand.  As such, when a student, professor, or researcher references ideas or work that was first created by another person, that member of academia must give credit to the founding author or creator of the work. Another principle stipulates that one cannot duplicate or copy the essence of another person’s work without receiving permission from the author or creator who owns the copyrights to that work.  Even if the person obtains permission from the author, the person cannot claim that she or he is the original creator of the work (and thus denying the true author’s legitimacy as the owner of the idea, theory, or technology). 


            These standards related to attribution of ideas prove particularly relevant when students write academic papers.  As discussed earlier, students who write strong academic papers support their paper’s contentions with evidence from academic sources. When providing evidence to support her or his opinion, students should paraphrase what the original author states in students’ own words.  As a general rule, students should quote authors sparingly (the fewer quotes the better). Quotations should not make up a significant portion of the entire paper.  When paraphrasing, students’ writing needs to be significantly different from the original author’s writing, particularly in terms of word choice, sentence structure, and phrasing.  An effective strategy for students to use when paraphrasing is to read a section of the original text, place the text out of view, and write from memory a summary of what the student read.  When students write what they remember reading from the original source, students should make sure to rephrase and reword what the original author said.  Students should also adhere to the writing style, phrasing, and word choice decisions that students had used previously in their writing.  This way, the style of the paper will remain consistent and will reflect each student’s individual writing style. 


Whenever students refer back to another author’s ideas, research, or work, students must provide an academic citation giving credit to the original author.  The same is true if the student decides to quote an author word for word using quotation marks.  Although citation formats and styles vary, two of the most popular formats adopted by professors and required for writing assignments are formats established by the American Psychological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA).  Professors should tell students their preferred citation format/style.  Most citation formats require the student to provide in-text citations in which they provide the author’s name immediately after discussing the author’s ideas or research.  At the end of the writing assignments, students will also provide additional details about the original sources of information in the form of a reference page. As part of the reference page, students will need to include information such as the author’s name, year of publication, title of publication, publisher or affiliated organization, and related website (if an online text).  Most colleges and universities have writing centers or librarians that specialize in supporting students with writing papers with accurate citations.  The author of this textbook highly recommends that students seek out these resources before submitting their major academic writing assignments, especially if students will be completing one of their first college writing assignments. 

Image of Busy College Mall

            "Toronto: University College." The City of Toronto.







The following chapter has provided the reader with an overview of higher education, particularly the academic rigors and requirements of colleges and universities.  The chapter discusses the differences between college and secondary schools.  Furthermore, the chapter provides the reader with general time management and study skills that the reader will likely find beneficial when pursuing college coursework.  Finally, the chapter concludes with a discussion of the academic honor standards at colleges and universities.  The reader receives overarching academic honesty guidelines to follow, and the reader learns of the appropriate ways to provide academic citations when referencing other authors’ published work.  After reading the chapter, students have now learned about the fundamental nature, structure, and academic requirements of college.  The next chapter will provide the reader with the theories behind how learners develop intellectually and emotionally.  Chapter Two will offer the theoretical foundations for much of the specific  information and recommendations related to learning, study skills, and organization that will be a key emphasis of the textbook’s later chapters. 




Bloom, B. (Ed.), Engelhart, M., First, E., Hill, W. & Krathwohl, D. (1956).  Taxonomy of educational   objectives: The classification of educational goals.  Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay. 


Baldwin, A., August, L., & Bennett, J. (2020).  College Success.  Open Stax.  Rice University.


College Board (n.d.).  “Quick Guide: Your College Degree Options.”


International Affairs Office, U.S. Department of Education (2008).  “Organization of U.S. Education:Tertiary Institutions”


Kok, S. (n.d.)“What is Fit? Part 2: What is a Liberal Arts College vs. Research University?”  Tufts Blogs.  Tufts University Undergraduate Admissions.


Macalester College (n.d.).  “Differences Between High School and College.”


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Comparative Media Studies (n.d.).  “Avoiding Plagiarism.”


Purdue University, Online Writing Lab (n.d.).  “How does citation work?  What is attribution?"


Riverside Campus Higher Education Center (n.d.).  “Managing Time for Success in College.”


Ross, K.  (2018, July 6).  “College vs. University in the U.S.: What’s the Difference?”  U.S. News and World Report.

Chapter 2: Humans’ Cognitive and Emotional Development


Image of Politician with Children

                          "Minister Cadieux helps launch the HIPPY Program for Multicultural Families."by BC Gov Photos.



As one embarks on her or his journey in higher education, one should consider the ways in which individuals develop intellectually and emotionally.  Understanding the theories behind how humans develop cognitively and emotionally will help students to conceptualize how they have developed throughout their lives and how they will continue to grow as scholars, professionals, and people during their time in college.  For this reason, the following chapter describes key educational and psychological theories of how humans mature cognitively and psychologically. Later, the chapter discusses theories on how humans’ physical, social, and emotional needs affect human behavior as well as humans’ overall ability to pursue their academic goals. 


Image of Family Doing Homework

"Committing to nutrition education.”  Nestlé.


 Cognitive Development


            When students ponder how to be academically successful in their college studies, students can start by considering how they have grown cognitively in their life and how they will continue to mature academically.  In educational psychology, there exists two camps of thought related to how humans intellectually mature-Constructivism and the Sociocultural Perspective.  In short, Constructivism contends that humans primarily learn through self-exploration and self-discovery with their environment, whereas the Sociocultural Perspective theorizes that humans learn socially through their interaction and collaboration with more knowledgeable individuals in their society.  As both perspectives prove valuable to consider when one reflects on how she or he grows intellectually, both perspectives will now be discussed in detail below. 


The Constructivist Viewpoint


Image of Jean Piaget

"Jean Piaget." Mirjoran.


Constructivism argues that humans develop the majority of their knowledge from personal observation and experiences with their exterior environment.  Jean Piaget (1896-1980), a Swiss psychologist and researcher, established many of the key tenets of Constructivist Theory during the greater part of the 20th century.  A key component of constructivism posits that babies first develop their knowledge from their personal interactions and discoveries with the world around them.  Thus, humans “construct” their knowledge through experimentation and through learning from trial and error.  When humans can explain their environment and the natural occurrences arounds them, humans reach a state of “equilibrium.” Yet, humans are often at a state of disequilibrium-unable to explain their natural world.  Humans’ desire to understand and explain their environment and their experiences, or their quest for equilibrium, cause humans to experiment, explore, and seek out new knowledge (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


Constructivism contends that one’s prior knowledge, or schema, lays the foundation for how one perceives and acquires new knowledge.  Specifically, humans acquire new knowledge and understanding based on the processes of assimilation and accommodation.  When humans assimilate new knowledge, they are comparing a new experience or discovery to their schema of a given concept.  In other words, humans continue their existing understanding, but add additional examples to further solidify their conception. Accommodation, on the other hand, entails the process in which humans modify their schema to account for new understandings.  Based on new experiences, people correct their existing schema or build new schema altogether through the process of accommodation (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013; Piaget, 1952).


For example, imagine a young child who understands the concept of a fish from reading books, watching educational videos, shopping with her parents for fish at a local market, and from personal experiences catching bass and trout with her grandfather.  When the child goes to the aquarium with her family, she sees a variety of new aquatic animals for the first time.  When the child sees sting rays, dolphins, clown fish, and grouper fish in the aquarium, all of whom are swimming with the use of fins and apparently breathing under water, the child will assimilate this knowledge to her prior schema of fish.  The child will assume all of those animals that she sees are fish, as the animals have similar characteristics to the fish that the child has observed previously. However, later, through explicit instruction from her parents at home, her teacher at school, and from observing a video of the live birth of a dolphin, the child later accommodates her schema.  She corrects her prior misconception, so that she understands that most swimming animals with scales, fins, tails, and gills that can breathe underwater are, indeed, fish; however, not all swimming animals with fins and tails that swim underwater must be fish.   The child determines that other swimming animals, such as dolphins, that resemble fish but that surface for air, give live birth, and nurse their young, are mammals, not fish.


  Piaget further identified four stages of human cognitive development, which each human experiences throughout their lives.   According to Piaget, while the speed in which a person passes through each stage differs based on the individual’s experiences and upbringing, in general, people pass through the following stages: Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years), Preoperational Period (2-7 years), Concrete Operational Period (7-11 years), and the Formal Operational Period (12 years to adulthood) (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).  Each stage’s characteristics and milestones will be described below.

Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years of age):  During the majority of this stage, babies are only able to conceptualize objects and people that are physically present.  Babies develop their understanding of the world through their immediate reflexes and actions (sucking, reaching and grabbing, personal observations, hearing, etc).  At the beginning of the stage, through (often accidental) experiences with using their reflexes, babies learn how to repeat single actions to receive a desired response (for example, hitting a spoon on the table to make a noise).  Later, babies can start to combine several actions to achieve an intended outcome (i.e. grasping a spoon and another toy, banging the two objects together to make a noise, and humming to make a baby musical composition). 

Image of Baby

"baby-6." Dohko.


For most of the Sensorimotor Period, babies will only be able to reproduce what they have recently observed or experienced.  However, by eighteen months and onward, young children can start to perceive the existence of objects and people that the child cannot immediately see, touch, or hear.  Piaget referred to this phenomenon as human’s perception of object permanence, or the ability for humans to conceptualize and portray objects, animals, and people that are not physically present in front of them.  Furthermore, the toddler can  complete deferred imitation, where the toddler can engage in an action that they have experienced or observed previously hours or even days before.  Thus, at the later stage of the sensorimotor period, babies are able to engage in activities from memory (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


The Preoperational Period (2-7 years): During the Preoperational Period, young children can start to represent their thoughts and feelings through symbolic actions such as the use of language, actions, and objects to represent separate ideas or concepts.  Nevertheless, children primarily think through the use of intuition and instinct, rather than through logical deduction.  Children will engage in pretend, symbolic play, imagining that an object represents something entirely different (i.e. imagining that a stuffed animal is their beloved household pet or that a paper towel roll represents a telescope). Often, from ages 2-4, as part of symbolic play, children will engage in play activities or draw objects which only the child, herself or himself, understands, leaving the outside observer perplexed by the meaning of the child’s actions or drawings (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).

Image of Child with Mom

                         "Toddler Leo Makes a Friend." Storyvillegirl.

At the earlier part of the Preoperational Period, children only have an egocentric point of view-understanding reality only through their own perspective and lacking the ability to appreciate other people’s points of view.  Children from ages two to four often engage in egocentric speech, often only communicating to themselves by voicing their thoughts and plans out loud.  Later, the child will develop socialized speech, or speech intended to communicate with others.  Socialized speech, according to Piaget, has the intention of gaining a targeted response from another person (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


 Children who are currently in the Preoperational Period also possess animistic thinking, or the belief that inanimate objects such as toys, stuffed animals, or drawings are actually alive and have feelings.  While progressing through the Preoperational Period of human development, children only are able to understand a sequence of  actions in one, sequential direction; children cannot conceptualize the reversibility of actions (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).  For instance, a child in this stage may understand how to assemble the parts of a basic model of a toy car and can repeat the assembly successfully on following days.  However, the child will struggle with the ability to disassemble a similarly-constructed car that has already been assembled into the car’s individual parts.


Image of Young Students with Teacher

                           "Patterson Elementary students." U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region.


Concrete Operational Stage (Ages 7-11):  When children reach the Concrete Operational Stage, they are able to start to make logical conclusions with the support of physical objects and physical personal experiences.  Children can engage in the process of seriation-the ordering of objects or quantities based on their physical characteristics (for example, ordering quantities of toys from least to greatest).   Another process that children can now understand when progressing through the concrete operational stage of development is transitivity.  Transitivity is the ability to compare the relationships of disparate objects or concepts to each other using rational logic (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).  An example of transitivity would be for the child to recognize that he is younger than his older sibling, and that his older sibling is younger than the child’s parents.  Thus, the child realizes that through a transitive relationship, the child is younger than his parents.  Transitivity could also imply that if a bird is an organism and that a bluebird is a type of bird, a bluebird is therefore also an organism.


As part of the Concrete Operational Stage, children think in exact, real-world terms.  They cannot imagine hypothetical events or scenarios that they have not physically or personally experienced.  Children struggle with the abstract and with nuances, preferring to think in “black and white” terms based on childrens’ prior personal experiences (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).  However, with the help of real objects and the ability to experience concepts firsthand, the child can begin to understand the reversibility of actions and processes.  In the earlier example of the child and a toy car, the child can now understand how to disassemble a complete car into various parts and organize the parts by function, as long as the child has a physical car to use as a model.


Formal Operational Period (ages 12-adulthood): When adolescents enter the Formal Operational Period at approximately the age of 12, adolescents can now think abstractly and hypothetically without the need of physical objects or personal experience.  Adolescents can perceive situations that they have never experienced personally or that may not exist in their present reality.  Adolescents have the ability to form hypotheses to explain situations that have not yet occurred, and adolescents can form conclusions on the accuracy of the hypothesis after observing the situation or process occur.  Adolescents do not rely on trial and error, but rather can use their prior knowledge to form conclusions before ever physically testing out the conclusion (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013). 


Image of Diverse Students Working on Project on Computer

"Computing Sciences outreach program for high school students.” Berkeley Lab.


            According to Piaget, as part of the formal operational period and prior to reaching adulthood, adolescents once again experience egocentrism in the form of “adolescent egocentrism.”  Adolescent egocentrism features the perception of an “imaginary audience” in which the adolescent perceives their actions, behavior, and appearance to be of utmost importance to their peers and outside observers.  The adolescent believes that their peers and society as a whole are closely scrutinizing their every action.  As such, adolescents have heightened self-consciousness and concern over others’ opinions of their behavior.  A second element of adolescent egocentrism is adolescents’ credence to the belief of “personal fable.”  When adolescents indulge in the belief of “personal fable,” adolescents perceive that they, alone, are uniquely experiencing a given emotion or outcome, and that their experiences do not follow historical or logical patterns or the experiences of others.  Thus, a teenager who perceives a “personal fable” may conclude that they, alone, might have the unique ability to tolerate a lack of sleep, since they have been able to stay up late in the past without having significant ramifications the next day.  The teenager in this situation could even have the misconception that she or he can stay up for two days straight without having significant negative effects, since she or he perceives that the situation does not resemble the experiences of parents or friends who have experienced a lack of sleep.


            Piaget’s Constructivist Viewpoint has several applications for the college student.  While almost all college students will be in the formal operational period and able to think abstractly and hypothetically, college students may benefit from first learning new concepts through concrete learning opportunities such as visuals, hands-on learning experiences, and role-playing activities such as internships and service-learning experiences.  Young college students might also benefit from remembering the fallacies of an “imaginary audience” and “personal fable” within adolescent egocentrism.  College students who reject the idea of an “imaginary audience” will be more free to pursue their true academic and social passions without fearing the constant scrutiny of others.  Similarly, college students who disregard “personal fables” will recognize that the consequences of many of their actions will likely be similar to others who have committed similar actions.  College students can observe positive role models and follow those role models’ behaviors such as good studying routines, safe hygiene and sleep habits, and the formation of affirming and supportive social relationships


The Sociocultural Perspective

Image of Lev Vygotsky

"Lev Vygotsky." Josemota.

In contrast to Constructivist Theory which focuses primarily on a person’s individualized learning through self-discovery of their environment, the Sociocultural Perspective examines how humans learn from others within their given family, society, and culture.  Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), a Russian Jewish educational psychologist and educator, established many of the central components of the Sociocultural Perspective in the early parts of the 20th century.  According to Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Perspective, children primarily learn cultural norms and knowledge from their interactions with more-knowledgeable adults such as their parents and teachers.  Adults work to pass on their traditional cultural and social knowledge to children by providing children with both physical and psychological tools.  Physical tools include objects such as computers, hammers, and automobiles that help a person to manipulate their environment.  Meanwhile, psychological tools, such as language and gestures bridge a persons’ mental processes with the society in which they live, fostering communication and the transmission of ideas (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013). 


Vygotsky further postulated that adults- apart from imparting physical and psychological tools- teach youth “higher mental functions,” or the ability to think independently and to be aware of their thinking processes.  Adults, likewise, impart cultural and traditional knowledge through the process of “cultural mediation,” educating youth on how to successfully function within a given society.  According to Vygotsky, the individual acquires new information through the process of “internalization.”  As part of “internalization,” a person retains the information and messages received through social interactions with more knowledgeable individuals (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013). 


The sociocultural perspective believes that young children under the age of three initially communicate non-verbally through signals, actions, and gestures.  Later, babies begin to communicate with words.  Vygotsky proposed that babies initially used verbal communication primarily for social purposes to relay messages to others.  The communication was separate from a person’s individual thinking.  However, by the time the child reaches the age of 3, Vygotsky contended that children’s thoughts and verbal language merge.  Apart from using language to communicate with others, the child develops egocentric speech in which the child uses oral communication primarily to describe their thinking process to themselves.  Through egocentric speech, the child voices their plan of action out loud to themselves to support the child’s completion of a given task.  By the age of seven, however, the child begins to internalize the egocentric speech into the form of mental thoughts.  While the egocentric speech is now non-verbal within the child’s mind, the speech still proves vital in helping the child to plan and modify their actions (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013). 


Zone of Proximal Development


In addition to Vygotsky’s explanation for how humans develop language and internalized thinking through the process of interacting with others, Vygotsky also established the theory of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) includes the knowledge, tasks, skills, and activities that a person can complete with the help of a more knowledgeable or experienced individual.  The Zone of Proximal Development, therefore, expands beyond what the learner currently understands on their own and can demonstrate independently.  With the help of “guided participation” with a more capable individual and “scaffolds,” or supports (such as verbal hints, visuals, repeated demonstrations, targeted feedback, models, partially completed activities, etc.) a person develops increased understanding and capabilities.  Thus, the individual expands her or his independent abilities. As a result, the individual then seeks out new intellectual and physical challenges, expanding her or his Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) to include new, more challenging knowledge and skills, which the individual will gain through the support of others (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).  

Image of Students Conversing at Lunch Table

"Learning Commons Studying & Social Space." Matheson Learning Commons.

The sociocultural perspective offers important guidelines to support college students’ academic success. Particularly, college students can recognize the many benefits of studying and working collaboratively with others.  Students can gain new ideas, learn from diverse perspectives, and acquire additional knowledge and techniques from more-knowledgeable peers, faculty, and community members. Students can also recognize that in order to understand a new concept or to accomplish a new task, the student must have adequate background knowledge on the subject.  Students will need various guided practice opportunities with the support of scaffolds such as textbooks, course materials, study materials, and exemples before students can expect to be able to complete a new academic task independently.  Students, furthermore, benefit from constructive feedback from their peers, professors, and mentors, which students can utilize to improve future performance.  With sufficient scaffolds, guided practice opportunities, and constructive feedback, students will eventually be able to independently and successfully perform advanced academic and professional tasks, thus expanding students’ Zone of Proximal Development and overall abilities.  


 Humans’ Emotional Development

While college students vary in age and life experience, college proves a monumental stage in a person’s life.  In college, one gains increased knowledge, expands their technical and professional abilities, and hears diverse points of view, perhaps causing the individual to change her or his own perspective on the world.  Likewise, college offers students the opportunity to meet peers from diverse backgrounds who hold a variety of life experiences.  Some will form relationships from college that will last a lifetime.  Regardless of the permanence of relationships formed in college, indelibly, the relationships and experiences that a person has during their higher education studies will leave a lasting impact on that person’s life. 

Image of Young Adults Closely Watching a Soccer Match on TV

"Crossed fingers."  Ali Brohi.

            Since college students grow emotionally and personally during their time in college, college students would be prudent if they also examined how their experiences relate to theories on how humans develop and mature emotionally throughout their lives.  Erik Erikson, a forebear of psychology, established a theory for how humans mature emotionally throughout their lives.  Because students who understand Erikson’s theory will likely have a better understanding of their own emotional growth and evolution, a description of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development will now be provided.


Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

Image of Erik Erikson

"File:Erik Erikson Photo2.jpg." Rupali.talan.


            Erik Erikson established a theory to explain the eight stages of socio-emotional development that humans undergo.  His theories, although more than a half century old, still form a central component of educational psychology related to learners’ process of emotional maturity.  Erikson focuses primarily on how humans develop various identities-both individual and social identities- that evolve throughout humans’ lives. Erikson considered not only how humans develop their own personality and individuality (which Erikson labeled as “ego identity”) but also how humans develop a social identity related to the beliefs, values, norms, and responsibilities within their given community.  Family, political structures, occupational institutions and roles, and religion play pivotal roles in shaping a person’s social identity.  Specifically, Erikson identified eight stages of identity which humans experience throughout their lives.  Each stage features a turning point, or crisis, in which the individual struggles with conflicting pressures from two extremes of the emotional spectrum.  An individual’s upbringing, social influences, and social expectations related to emotional development affect which end of the emotional spectrum the individual will populate.  The resolution of each stage’s emotional crisis, in turn, establishes an individual’s identity (Adams, 2008).  A discussion of Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development will subsequently be discussed below.  Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems (2013) write that it is important to note that within each of Erikson’s eight stages, an ideal level of identity would be within the two extremes (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013), as to provide the individual with emotional balance. 


Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust (Infants)


In this stage of life, babies rely on adult caregivers for nutrition, safety, shelter, affection, and other basic needs. According to Erikson, if infants have their needs reliably and consistently met by a caregiver, the infant develops overall trust in their caregivers.  This trust lays the foundation for the child to confidently depend on other, non-family members later in life, such as their teachers and friends.  If children develop a sense of trust, this trust also expands to children’s inner sense of trustworthiness.  Infants self-confidence in their own abilities supports infants’ overall optimism toward others and life in general.  However, according to Erikson, infants who do not have their needs consistently met or who do not experience regular kindness, will often develop an overall sense of mistrust of others and society as a whole.  Infants who hold mistrust of others are more likely to hold a pessimistic outlook toward life and others (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013). 


Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt (Toddlers)


            During the toddler years, children begin to crawl and later walk on their own.  They start to speak using individual words and later speak in complete sentences.  Eventually, children begin to feed and wash themselves without the help of an adult caretaker, and children become toilet trained.  Thus, the early years of a child’s life prove to be a time for exploration, self-discovery, and a budding sense of self-accomplishment and autonomy.  The child now does not have to rely solely on adults for their basic needs, and because of this, the child develops an increasing sense of self-efficacy.  Adults should offer children opportunities to safely and carefully explore their environment.  Moreover, adults should observe and guide children as the children practice how to independently complete fundamental life tasks related to nutrition, hygiene, and wellness.  If adults provide safe, controlled opportunities for children to explore and independently fulfill many of children’s own basic needs while also positively encouraging children throughout the process, children will likely develop an increased feeling of autonomy.  However, on the other hand, children who lack opportunities to perform fundamental tasks by themselves will often express doubt in their own abilities.  Young children who have been overly-criticized by adults or other members of society for their missteps in independent living experience feelings of shame.  Thus, ideally, children should be positively supported and encouraged by their adult caregivers to begin to indepently function, which will help build children’s self-confidence in their own abilities (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


Stage 3: Initiative vs. Guilt (Ages 3-6)


            During this stage, children begin to act on their own for particular purposes.  Children also role-play various adult roles such as teacher, parent, firefighter, etc., as children pay closer attention to the work and contributions of adults within their household and within their community.  Indeed, children develop a desire to contribute to their community and to make tangible, meaningful products (Batra, 2013).  In addition, children also start to develop their own personal interests.  Children continue to experiment with the world around them and further develop their physical, social, and language abilities.  Children establish goals, although the goals may be somewhat far-fetched and unrealistic.  If youngsters feel encouraged and supported in their imaginative play, role-playing activities, and attempts to achieve their goals, youngsters develop a sense of initiative, making individual decisions based on their own personal preferences and understanding of the world.  At the same time, youngsters begin to recognize and appreciate limitations and others’ social expectations.  Children start to modify some of their actions and behaviors based on the approval or disapproval that they receive from others.  If children feel overly scrutinized by others, this may inhibit the child’s actions and willingness to experiment.  Thus, if adults or older members of society repeatedly ridicule the child for the child’s curiosity, experimentation, or attempts to accomplish goals,  the child will develop a sense of guilt.  This guilt can cause the child to question their own inherent desires, perceptions, and abilities, which may negatively affect the child’s development (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013)


Stage 4: Industry vs. Inferiority (Ages 6-12 years)


            According to Erikson, children in the “Industry vs. Inferiority” stage begin to think more abstractly, consciously acquire more complex forms of knowledge, and begin to use technology systematically to modify their environment.  Children and young adolescents further gain a unique sense of competence in their own abilities as well as a personal purpose for their actions.  While children may modify their sense of competence and their purpose based on societal feedback, children will maintain some of  their own, unique perspective, which remains free from society’s introspection.  Moreover, children and young adolescents begin to develop a budding sense of work and the effort needed to independently survive as an adult (Batra, 2013). 


During this time period, children also gain important time-management, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills.  Children begin to especially appreciate the praise and attention that they receive for their academic, athletic, physical, and social accomplishments.  Based on students’ particular accomplishments and achievements, children develop a sense of industry and utility.  Children and young adolescents will also learn during this time period how to cope with initial failure and how to recover and compensate from the failure, eventually persevering.  However, if youngsters repeatedly experience failure or lack support, guidance, and encouragement from adults and/or peers, youngsters can experience brooding insecurity.  When youngsters compare their feelings of ineffectiveness to their peers’ apparent successes and competence, youngsters may begin to feel inferior.  Thus, during this time period, it is imperative that youngsters feel that they can competently complete meaningful tasks, although the nature of these tasks might differ based on the child’s interests, upbringing, and environment (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


Stage 5: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Adolescence to Young Adulthood)

            During this period, adolescents undergo significant physical and emotional changes.  Adolescents place added importance to the values and norms of influential peers and social actors.  Adolescents also experiment with different identities and roles, exploring particular academic and professional interests.  As part of this developmental stage, adolescents’ social groups, beliefs, and values will frequently change until young adulthood when adolescents’ social circles and personal identities become more firmly established.  While adolescents experiment with different  values and norms, they will often view others who hold distinct beliefs and lifestyles as antagonistic, oppositional forces. 


           In the “Identity vs. Role Confusion” stage, Erikson believed that individuals established their sense of morality and ethics.  Individuals also began to choose among their various interests and social influences to prioritize particular activities, work, and people (Batra, 2012).  Therefore, adolescents in this stage receive increased independence from their families, undergo physical and sexual maturity, and focus on ensuing adulthood.  As a result, adolescents who have successfully processed through the previous stages and who find a desired identity establish concrete career, academic, and family aspirations.  However, adolescents that struggle to find a desired social group or who fail to identify a preferred occupation will experience role confusion.  Rather than developing a personal identity or solid future goals, adolescents will still confusedly continue to shift between social groups, roles, and occupations (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Early Adulthood)

            According to Erikson, after establishing themselves in their occupations, social groups, and social roles in the previous stage, adults in their twenties, thirties, and forties begin to focus on developing permanent, loving relationships.  These relationships are both romantic relationships as well as familial relationships.  If the adult has developed a sense of identity and feeling of competence, the adult will now be able to express unadulterated love for other humans.  Adults will be able to establish intimate relationships with others built on love and trust.  The caring relationships will allow the adult to be vulnerable to others and to put others’ interests over the individual’s own interests.  As such, the well-adjusted adult proves able to establish intimacy with others.  Yet, adults who struggle with their identity or their feelings of self-worth will likely struggle to develop loving, committed relationships. According to Erikson’s theories, these adults will unfortunately feel isolation from others, refusing to trust or be vulnerable to others out of a fear of being hurt (Batra, 2013; Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


Stage 7: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Middle Age)

Middle-aged adults proceed through Erikson’s seventh stage, “Generativity vs. Stagnation.”  In this stage, middle-aged individuals focus their efforts on their contributions to their family, profession, and community.  Adults, likewise, dedicate more and more time to supporting the development of younger generations.  Established in their careers and families, adults devote their efforts to making a positive, lasting impact among those around them.  However, adults who do not feel that they have contributed to society or do not find meaningful ways to help others can feel a sense of stagnation.  These adults will feel increasingly isolated and frustrated by their inability to positively influence others (Batra, 2013; Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).  Other individuals might be too self-absorbed to be able to adequately think about others’ needs, engaging in another form of stagnation (Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


Stage 8: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Senior Citizens)

In Erikson’s final stage, “Ego Integrity vs. Despair,” senior citizens who have successfully passed through the previous stages and have made lasting contributions to others  reflect on their legacy.  They can take pride in their families, their support of future generations, and their fruitful impact on the world.  These individuals experience inner peace and contentment with their life, while still acknowledging their faults and imperfections.  Since most people in this stage can feel a sense of wholeness in reference to their lives, many senior citizens generously pass leadership opportunities to subsequent generations. Unfortunately, not all individuals will experience inner satisfaction.  These individuals may have regret for previous indiscretions or failures.  As a result, these individuals may dwell in despair.  Ideally, though, most individuals who reach this part of their lives will have contributions and memories upon which to fondly remember.  Most individuals can, hopefully, feel that their lives had purpose, meaningfulness, and integrity (Batra, 2013; Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2013).


            Erikson’s stages of humans’ psychosocial development prove relevant to various groups of college students.  Traditional college students who are in their late teenage years and early twenties pursue their college coursework shortly after completing secondary school.  These traditional college students may still be searching for their social, professional, and academic identity.  It is not uncommon for students, especially traditional college students, to change majors several times, change social groups during college, and explore various personal identities.  As Erikson explains, this behavior is to be expected, and students (as well as their families, friends, and professors) should be patient with students’ progression. 


College students will also likely be experiencing elements from Erikson’s “Intimacy and Isolation” stage.  Students often seek out close personal relationships, including romantic relationships. Students are learning how to find positive, compatible friends and partners. Not only are students learning how they should treat others and how they want to be treated by others, students are learning to trust others.  Students are learning how to safely, appropriately, and unconditionally love other human beings, which means that students are also learning how to allow themselves to be vulnerable. 


More and more students attending colleges and universities are non-traditional students who have already established families and professions, but now choose to further their intellectual and professional abilities.  These students may even be in the “Generativity vs. Stagnation” stage of life.  Students in this stage will be focusing on how they can meaningfully contribute to their families and their society.  Students will particularly reflect on how their academic studies directly apply to their future, lasting contributions to their community and desired profession.  Non-traditional students may also choose to give back to younger, traditional students through mentorship and collaboration, which appeals to the generativity derived from contributing to subsequent generations’ well-being.  For these reasons and many others, college students will benefit from learning about Erikson’s theories of psychosocial development, as students will have a better understanding of their own social and emotional development as well as that of their peers. 


 How Physical, Emotional, and Social Needs Relate to Learning


As students are well aware, students do not learn or work in a vacuum.  Apart from a person’s physical and emotional development, a person’s immediate ability to learn and grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally will largely be shaped by the person’s environment and the person’s desire to fulfill their individual needs. Humans have a variety of needs-physical needs related to survival and basic physical functioning, social needs related to maintaining positive, supportive relationships, and creative needs related to humans’ ability to be productive.  Students’ ability to meet their various needs will affect their ability to concentrate on their academic work and their ability to develop lasting, supportive social relationships in college.  For this reason, the final part of this chapter will discuss Abraham Maslow’s theory of humans’ hierarchies of needs.  Understanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will help students to better conceptualize how their behavior and attention focus often relate to their own perceptions of essential needs. 


Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Abraham Maslow, a 20th century psychologist, conceptualized how humans’ needs and their ability to provide for their needs relates to humans’ immediate and long-term well-being.  Maslow argued that a person’s actions  directly result from humans’ perceptions of their needs.  Indeed, humans’ quest to obtain their needs proved a central motivator of that person’s behavior.  Maslow ranked needs into five distinct categories: physiological, safety-security, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization (Taormina & Gao, 2013).


The most basic level of needs—according to Maslow—involve humans’ physiological needs.  Physiological needs include food, clean water, and warmth.  As Maslow explained, humans will not be able to function or focus on any other task at hand unless humans can assure that their physiological needs essential for immediate survival have been met.  Next, once humans have satisfied their most basic needs, humans will look to acquire the second level of needs-safety-security needs.  Safety-security needs feature protection from physical and emotional harm.  Shelter from environmental hazards is a fundamental safety-security need as well as protection from bodily harm.  Safety-security needs can also be more abstract, such as financial security from poverty as well as a peaceful existence living in a stable community that has a just and consistent legal system. 



Image of Maslow's Hierarchy Pyramid

"20150502 Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs."


After people have obtained their physiological and safety-security needs, people begin to direct their attention to belongingness needs, or social and relationship needs.  When an individual seeks belongingness, the individual yearns for positive, trustworthy relationships with others.  Apart from searching for close relationships with family and friends, individuals also wish to be accepted into the greater society in which they live.


Next, humans pursue the fourth level of needs, esteem needs.  Based on Maslow’s theory, esteem needs entail both the need for self-appreciation and self-respect, or a positive self-esteem, as well as an esteem gained from others.  Thus, humans not only hope to satisfy their own goals for themselves, but humans also consider how others perceive their character, actions, work, and accomplishments. 

Finally, once individuals have satisfactorily accomplished their physical, social, and esteem needs, individuals will pursue the final level of needs, self-actualization.  Self-actualization refers to humans’ quest to meet their full potential and for self-fulfillment.  Self-actualization needs can also signify individuals’ passion to be creative, original, and contribute to society (Taormina & Gao, 2013).


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be a useful theory for students to use when reflecting on pre-requisites for their academic success.  Even as adults in college, students need to remember to obtain regular nourishment, sufficient sleep, adequate warmth and shelter, stability, and positive social relationships.  If these fundamental needs are not met, students will struggle to dedicate their attention to their classes and academic work. Most students will, likewise, appreciate being part of campus social and/or extracurricular groups.  Extracurricular student associations and community organizations, when positive and supportive, can help students to become more committed to their academics and to apply what they have learned in their courses to the real world.  Ideally, in college, students will later take steps toward self-actualization by determining an academic major or area that appeals to their interests, creativity, and skills.  As one can see, Maslow’s theories have several practical implications for the college student. 

Image of Two Women Studying

"Modern Languages @ FLCC Study Abroad in Rennes & Paris, France." LeafLanguages.



            Through reading this chapter, students have gained insight on how humans grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially.  Specifically, students have learned of two foundational theories related to how humans develop cognitively: Constructivist Theory  and the Sociocultural Perspective, established by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, respectively.  Moreover, after reading the chapter, students gained a better understanding of theories related to humans’ emotional stages and overall socio-emotional evolution through the perspective of Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development.  Readers also can now see the connection between one’s desire to meet their various needs and their corresponding behaviors through learning of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Chapter two provides the theoretical framework, which will lay the foundation for the practical strategies, techniques, and knowledge that subsequent chapters will detail. Indeed, Chapter three will provide readers with increased knowledge of educational theories related to academic motivation, attention, and memory development.  Students will find chapter three particularly relevant as the chapter will provide students with increased understanding of how to dedicate their attention and memory to their academic coursework.




Adams, G. (2008). “Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development.” In Salkind, N. (Ed.).  Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology.  SAGE Publications, Inc. 


Batra, S. (2013). The Psychosocial Development of Children: Implications for Education and Society — Erik Erikson in Context. Contemporary Education Dialogue, 10(2), 249–278.


Erikson, E.  (1963).  Childhood and society (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.


Erikson, E. (1968).  Identity: Youth and crisis.  New York: Norton.


Erikson, E., & Erikson, J. (1997). The life cycle completed.  New York: Norton. 


Gonzalez-DeHass, A. R., & Willems, P. P. (2013). Theories in educational psychology [electronic resource] : concise guide to meaning and practice / Alyssa R. Gonzalez-Dehass and Patricia P. Willems. Rowman & Littlefield Education.


Maslow, A. H. (1962).  Some basic propositions of a growth and self-actualization psychology. In A. H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (pp. 177-200).  Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand

Maslow, A. H. (1987).  Motivation and Personality (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley


Piaget, J. (1952).  The origins of intelligence in children (trans. M. Cook).  International Universities Press, Inc.


Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1969).  The psychology of the child.  New York: Basic Books.


Taormina, R. J., & Gao, J. H. (2013). Maslow and the motivation hierarchy: measuring satisfaction of the needs. American Journal of Psychology, 126(2), 155+.

Vygotsky, L. (1962).  Thought and language (ed. And trans. E. Hanfmann & G. Vakar).  Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Vygotsky, L. (1978).  Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (ed.M. Cole, V. John-Teiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman).  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.








Chapter 3: Academic Motivation, Attention Focus, and Memory

students working together

"Academic Success Centre 07."  University of the Fraser Valley.



As the reader will see in this chapter, academic motivation, attention, and memory significantly affect college students’ academic success.  Academic motivation, or students’ interest and effort toward their studies, influences students’ likelihood to study, complete assignments, seek assistance from peers and their professors, and persevere past initial setbacks.  Academically motivated individuals are also more likely to dedicate attention to academic tasks, which further supports students’ ability to remember key content and skills.  Active attention proves necessary for students to initially store information in their working memory.  After repeated, distributed practice, the information, techniques, and skills learned can be transferred to long-term memory.  Clearly, academic motivation, attention, and memory interrelate and support each other.  The present chapter will not only define academic motivation, attention, and the forms of memory, but will also provide the foundational research behind each of these principles.  Furthermore, the chapter provides college students with several best practices to enhance academic motivation, attention focus, and memory. 


Librarian shelving books

"Meet The MIA: Jessica McIntyre." Minneapolis Institute of Art.


Academic Motivation


Middleton & Perks (2016) describe academic motivation as the energy that a learner possesses and devotes to a particular learning goal.  Academic research indicates that motivated students often have several characteristics and beliefs in common.  First, motivated individuals often prove to have a strong, positive sense of self-efficacy.  These individuals feel that they will likely accomplish most intended tasks as well as meet the majority of goals that they establish for themselves. Students’ previous experiences with a given learning topic or task can affect students’ overall confidence in their self-efficacy in that particular area.  Students’ perceptions of how others view students’ likelihood of success can also influence students’ sense of self-efficacy (Middleton & Perks, 2016).


Based on this information, college students can build their self-efficacy through repeatedly practicing with a given concept or skill.  Repeated practice can provide more opportunities for students to experience success.  Successful practice opportunities will contribute to students’ likelihood for future success, which will further build students’ sense of self-efficacy.  Since others’ perceptions affect a person’s sense of self-efficacy, students may also choose to enlist friends and professors to provide students with structured, constructive, and positive feedback.  If students refine their studying and learning habits based on the feedback, ideally, students will eventually receive positive feedback that praises students’ abilities.  As such, students’ sense of self-efficacy, and overall academic motivation, will likely grow.  This makes significant practical sense.  If you think about your favorite hobbies and pastimes, most will involve actions in which you feel highly competent and that you have experienced success. 


Moreover, motivated individuals prove likely to feel that they have control over their learning and academic success.  Specifically, motivated students largely attribute their academic performance on an assignment to the amount of effort, such as studying or practicing, that the student dedicated to the particular assignment.  Less motivated students consider external factors to largely shape the outcomes of their learning such as the helpfulness or effectiveness of professors or peers (Middleton & Perks, 2016). Thus, students’ perspectives on the causes of their academic success or failure and students’ attribution of their ability to control their learning outcomes proves very important. 


College students would benefit from reflecting on their previous academic performance.  Students should consider how their academic performance was a result of  students’ effort devoted to the academic task.  Likewise, students could consider how their academic performance related to students’ particular studying routine for a given task.  For example, the college student can ask herself or himself, “When was I most successful in a course or on an assignment?  How much effort did I devote to the course or activity, and how did I particularly study or prepare ahead of time?”  The college student can then attempt to duplicate their previous successes by once again pursuing positive behaviors that supported their prior achievements. This act of self-reflection will lead to the student having increased motivation for the present assignment and/or course. 


As the research demonstrates, college students should focus on what is under their locus of control and should not dwell on factors that they cannot immediately change (professors’ teaching styles, deadlines, difficulty of assignments, etc).  Students who worry about areas outside of their immediate control, will have decreased academic motivation, and will, as a result, be less likely to be academically successful.  For these reasons, students should take responsibility for their learning and their learning outcomes, which will lead to students’ greater motivation toward their coursework.


Furthermore, students that possess intrinsic, deep-rooted interest in an academic topic or activity often have more motivation compared to students who only have temporary and/or situational interest in a topic.  Long-lasting, intrinsic interest in a topic involves the learner having a genuine fascination in the subject area and an interest to devote some of their leisure time to learning more about the particular field of study.  Another indicator of enduring intrinsic motivation is the individual developing mastery goals-goals which focus on continuous improvement and personal growth.  In terms of encouraging motivation, it is preferable to develop mastery goals rather than the performance goals, which emphasize how others view the individual’s relative success in completing a task.  Students who hold mastery goals do not dwell on the fact that they made previous errors or misconceptions; instead, students with mastery goals view errors as a natural part of the learning process and an opportunity for the individual to learn from experience (Middleton & Perks, 2016). 


Based on these findings, students should take time during class or during their study sessions to think about how the content connects to their interests.  Students should also take time to research or explore particular areas of a given topic on their own, even if this exploration is not required.  For example, imagine a student who is majoring in secondary education and sports and exercise science who is taking an introductory physics course to satisfy a science requirement for their degree plan.  The student may or may not have intrinsic interest in learning foundational physics concepts; however, the student will certainly have more intrinsic interest and motivation if the student takes time to research how physics relates to sports (such as shooting a basketball or hitting a baseball).


  Students who believe that the information and skills that they are learning are meaningful and useful will, likewise, have increased motivation.  Indeed, students are more motivated learners when they believe that their educational activities can lead to important future outcomes such as proficiency in one’s intended profession or the ability to contribute to one’s community.  A drive to socially connect with one’s peers and professors enhances students’ motivation as well.  Students who feel that they can build positive, social relationships with their professors and peers through academically-related collaboration will likely possess more motivation compared to students who feel a lack of connection to a learning community (Middleton & Perks, 2016).  Taking these best practices to mind, students should research to find ways in which the information in their courses connects to their desired career and to helping their local community.  In fact, students can ask their professors (in a polite way), how do professors think that the course material relates to students’ desired profession or local community.  When given open-ended assignments that involve student choice (such as a research project or group assignment), students could select topics related to their career pathway, or choose a topic that they could directly apply to solve a real-world problem in their community.  In doing so, students would increase their intrinsic motivation in completing the assignment, which will further their likelihood for overall academic success on the assignment and within the overall course, itself. 


marching band

          "GREATNESS BEYOND THE GRIDIRON: 143D ESC UNITE FANS AT FLORIDA CLASSIC." 143d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)




            While students can have some latent learning without paying close attention to a lesson, assignment, or task at hand, students’ who dedicate attention to their studies facilitate their overall learning of the material (Rekart, 2013).  According to Rekart (2013), attention is the “act of dedicating conscious, cognitive resources to a set of stimuli” (Rekart, 2013, p. 35).  Another way to describe attention is a person devoting their mental energy to a particular object, event, situation, problem, or task.  Internal stimuli, such as a person thinking about a particular topic or concept or working to remember a piece of information, activates a person’s attention.  External stimuli, like an external event occurring such as a sudden rainshower, can capture a person’s attention as well.  Research indicates that humans pay closer attention to topics that are more relevant to them.  Cognitive studies also demonstrate that attention is a fixed quantity- a person can only dedicate a set amount of attention to different tasks at a time and cannot dedicate a high level of attention to several things at the same time (Rekart, 2013).  An office employee will have difficulty holding a phone conversation with a client, reading an email, responding to the email, and drinking a cup of coffee all at the same time.  However, if the office employee only performed one of the given tasks at a time, the person would be able to complete the task with much more relative ease. 


            While the total amount of attention that people can dedicate to all of their multiple thoughts, functions, and actions is limited, people can reduce the amount of attention required to complete a given task through repeated practice.  After repeated practice, automaticity begins to occur, which requires the brain to dedicate less of its overall attention ability to a given task (Rekart, 2013).  For example, as a young baby, walking required a significant amount of attention and effort for most humans. In fact, most babies could only focus on trying to walk rather than other activities (talking, drinking, eating, etc). However, through practicing for several years, adults have developed automaticity with the task of walking. Adults can now distribute their attention to several activities at once-such as walking in a park, talking to one’s friends, and reading the signs on the park trail. 


Research indicates that students’ anxiety in completing a given task reduces their likelihood in paying their full attention to a given task.  Students are more likely to “attention blink,” or briefly become distracted and avert their attention from what they are studying, thus inhibiting their ability to meaningfully perceive the intended information.  Academic studies further indicate that people who regularly engage in multitasking behavior have reduced overall attention spans.  In particular, multitasking using technology while engaging in academic learning negatively affects students’ ability to switch their attention among tasks.  So, students who multitask during their college courses by texting with a cellular phone, searching for information on a web browser, and listening to the professor lecture all at the same time, have less overall attention to dedicate to the academic topic at hand (Rekart, 2013). 


Multitasking with technology further hinders students’ ability to focus their attention on more important tasks (listening and taking notes to the classroom lecture) rather than lesser important tasks (texting).  Some research even indicates that students’ use of laptop computers in their college classrooms actually leads to reduced levels of student learning.   Students who engage in multitasking behaviors by using their computers during class score lower on exams compared to students who do not multitask with their computers.  Interestingly, even students who see other students multitask on laptops in class, but who do not multitask themselves, receive lower test scores compared to students who did not see their peers’ multitask with technology.  Multitasking has also been shown to lead to reduced long-term retention of information (Rekart, 2013). 


Student studying in library glancing at phone

                                             "IMG_0881."  Mosaic36.


When students distribute their attention to various sources (stimuli) at hand, students are less likely to experience deep, meaningful learning of the material that they are intending to learn (Rekart, 2013).  Indeed, if students acquire knowledge while they are relatively distracted, students will have increased difficulty utilizing the knowledge for higher-order/critical thinking purposes. In other words, students who engage in multitasking behaviors while they are learning may be able to memorize basic information and have a shallow, surface level understanding of the information.  However, students will struggle with critical thinking/higher order-thinking functions, such as applying the knowledge to new situations, analyzing the relationship between various pieces of information, evaluating the meaningfulness of the knowledge, and creating their own, original representations of their learning[1] (Bloom et al., 1956, Rekart, 2013).


College students can apply their increased understanding of attention to improve their studying  behaviors in several ways.  Not only does repeated practice support students’ sense of self-efficacy and overall academic motivation, but repeated practice leads to automaticity and less demands on the brain’s attention.  Students who develop competency in a task through repeated practice can then devote more attention to other areas of their learning.  Thus, college students would benefit from repeatedly practicing with academic skills such as note-taking, researching, reading academic texts, and academic writing.  Students can also practice with course content that they have previously learned through re-writing and summarizing notes, answering practice questions, discussing topics with peers, and engaging in academic reading.  This way, college students can devote more attention during class and during their studying sessions to new information that is presented in their courses, since students have already developed automaticity in many of the foundational studying skills. 


Furthermore, college students should be mindful that they are not engaging in unnecessary multitasking behaviors, especially multitasking behaviors using technology.  While students are in class or studying, students should refrain from sending personal text messages, researching unrelated topics, chatting, answering emails, holding personal conversations, and engaging in other unrelated activities.  Even though multitasking students may still be able to remember some central facts about their learning, they will likely struggle to deeply process the information.  Most college coursework requires significant deep thinking and critical thinking skills rather than the basic recall of key facts.  For this reason, college students must ensure that they devote their full, undivided attention to the topic that they are studying, so that they will be able to deeply process the information.  Students who are able to deeply process information and utilize their content knowledge to engage in critical thinking activities will have a greater likelihood for overall academic success in college. 






image of brain

"Cracking the brain's memory codes.” National Institutes of Health (NIH).



According to academic research, various forms of memory exist.  When a person stores new information in their “short term memory,” the person will only be able to remember the information for a brief period.  If the learner does not practice with the information or focus on retaining the information, “short term” memory will often be lost. “Working memory” includes new information with which a person practices or actively engages.  If a learner is able to retain new information acquired in their “working memory,” the learner will likely be able to retain key concepts of the information presented. 


However, working memory, similar to short term memory, proves relatively ephemeral, lasting only for about thirty seconds up to a few minutes.  In addition, learners can only store approximately 3-9 new pieces of information in their working memory at a time.  Similar to attention spans, intense emotions such as stress and anxiety can interfere with a person’s ability to store information in their working memory.  When a person experiences intense emotions, the person becomes distracted and focuses their memory on the emotion at hand.  Interestingly, when memorizing words, learners will have greater difficulty remembering a set of words that rhyme, that have similar meanings, or that feature lengthy syllables (Rekart, 2013). 


While working memory has time limitations, the longer a person can store information in their working memory, the greater the likelihood that the individual will be able to retain the information in their long-term memory.  Long-term memory features information that the learner stores for days, months, years, and even decades (Rekart, 2013). As one can see, a key goal for most students should be to store as much information that they learned in their coursework and professional experiences in their long-term memory, so that students may access and apply the information in the future.   The question now remains: “How can a learner transfer information that can only be stored briefly in her or his “working memory” to information that resides in the individual’s long-term memory?”


Fortunately, cognitive research related to memory has given learners valuable ways to expand their long-term memory.  “Chunking” information into smaller, but meaningful pieces of information, proves one important way to increase the likelihood that information is stored in long-term memory (Rekart, 2013).  For example, if a biology professor provides students with a list of 100 key vocabulary terms for the semester, students could utilize the “chunking” strategy to practice five to nine words per week.  When practicing with each of the five to nine words, students could look up the definition and practice with each vocabulary word in several ways.  Students could write the definition in their own words, think of an example of the word, write a sentence using the word, draw a picture, and find a visual image of the word.  The student could even connect the word to a given memory or experience from the student’s life.   Because the student is “chunking” information by breaking down the larger list into more manageable parts and connecting the new information to her or his prior knowledge, the student is much more likely to store the meaning of each word in her or his long-term memory compared to if the student had attempted to memorize all 100 words through rote memorization. 


Another way to improve the likelihood that new learning forms part of long-term memory is to provide various exposures to the content using multiple sensory modalities, including visual and auditory representations.  Visual representations consist of what the learner sees or reads, while auditory representations include what the learner hears (either speech initiated by another person or speech initiated by the learner, herself/himself).  Academic studies related to memory have concluded that students are more likely to retain information presented in two different modalities at the same time than if they were only presented the information in one format (i.e. only visually) (Rekart, 2013).  In the example mentioned earlier related to learning biology vocabulary words, students could use two sensory modalities-visual and auditory modalities- to increase the likelihood that the words are stored in students’ long term memory.  For instance, students could engage with the word visually by writing a sentence using the word and drawing a picture of the word.  Simultaneously, students could be also listening to a recording of the word being pronounced out loud.  As this example demonstrates, students would be more likely to remember the word using visual and auditory sensory modalities at the same time than if they would have only practiced with the word using only one modality. 


In addition, distributing practice and studying intervals over a period of time assists the learner’s ability to store information in her or his long-term memory.   Research suggests that an effective way to enhance long-term memory features reviewing content during repeated intervals of time with gaps between each review session.  This form of study proves more effective for long-term memory than “cramming” information in one’s brain through infrequent, but intense, study sessions occurring right before the learner must retrieve the information. Indeed, students who study in short but frequent time intervals will remember more of what they study than students who study for a longer total period of time, but only study on a few occasions (i.e. students who “cram” for tests or assignments).  As a result, students who study in regular, repeated intervals can devote less total time to studying compared to students who choose to “cram” on one or two occasions for an exam or assignment (Rekart, 2013). 


There are two reasons that distributed study or practice proves more beneficial than intense, infrequent studying (“cramming”).  First, the brain requires time to physically change so that the information or skill forms part of long-term memory.  Second, spacing out time between studying or practicing allows students to make a better judgement of how well they learned the material.  In other words, students who space out time between study sessions can better self-reflect on their understanding of the material and whether or not they are ready to move on to studying a different topic (Rekart, 2013). 


For shorter time intervals before an exam or assignment is due, a good rule of thumb to determine how frequently one should study is to divide the number of days before the due date of an exam, activity, or assignment by the number ten.  The answer will tell the learner how frequently she or he should study, or in other words, how much space the learner should leave between study sessions.  For example, if a student has an exam in 30 days, the student should study every three days (30 divided by 10)(Rekart, 2013). 


The information provided above concerning the time intervals between studying sessions proves especially relevant to many college students who must balance their academic studies with their professional, family, social, and/or extracurricular commitments.  Students who wish to maximize their time should schedule frequent opportunities to read over their classroom notes, read assigned readings, read over their notes on their assigned readings, and complete assignments.  Thus, students who regularly study in this fashion will actually have to devote less total time to studying compared to if they would have “crammed” before an exam or assignment.   


Another way students can improve their long-term memory is to actively focus on their processing of what they are learning in their mind.  When students actively process their information, they take time to reflect on what they have read, heard, observed, or experienced.  Students engage in deep processing of material by taking time between learning each new piece of information to visualize in their mind what they have learned.  Students can think back to how the new information or subject relates to their previous knowledge, and students can think about the relevance, or relative importance of what they are learning, to their lives.  Likewise, students also can improve their processing of material by focusing on the uniqueness, or distinct qualities of each piece of information.  When students think about how information “stands out” from other information that they have read, seen, or heard, or see information presented in a new or unexpected way, students are more likely to retain that information in their memory (Reikart, 2013). 

Moreover, using organizational tools such as graphic organizers, concept maps, and outlines to organize information further assists the brain to retrieve information from long-term memory.  The brain stores information in semantic categories, such as “animals” versus “tools.” When students purposefully organize their learning using visual organizers, students help assist their brain to store information in semantic categories.  Later, the practice of organizing information helps students’ brains to quickly access and retrieve the information from their long-term memory to complete learning activities and assessments (Reikart, 2013).  Many college students already have practiced using visual organizers such as outlines, Venn diagrams, and concept webs in their previous coursework.  For those who wish to learn more about the subject, examples of visual organizers for note-taking and organizing information will be described in greater detail in chapter five of this text, “Organization Strategies.”


            Students can further improve their long-term memory of content information by regularly engaging in self-assessment of their learning.  Various studies have shown that students who engage in pre-test activities before an exam perform better on the actual exam than students who simply study on their own without taking a practice test before the exam.  Students who take pre-tests or practice tests also have increased ability to recall additional information that was not  covered on the pre-test.  Students are able to recall these other related topics on the actual exam, even though they did not directly review them as part of the practice test.  In other words, the simple act of challenging one’s brain to remember particular information on a topic inspires the brain to also remember additional, related information (Rekart, 2013).  For example, if students prepare for a U.S. History exam by answering review questions related to key events that led up to the Civil War, students will likely also start to remember other related information such as important Civil War battles, the Emancipation Proclamation, the signing of the 13th Amendment, and other relevant facts corresponding to that time period. 


Thus, it would be prudent for college students to prepare for exams and major assignments by engaging in review of the material by answering practice questions and completing practice tests.  Many professors already provide students with practice tests or questions or assign textbook chapter readings that contain review questions at the end of the chapter.  In addition, many practice tests related to a given topic are freely accessible through a simple internet search.  The author of this text would even recommend that students form a study group and that each member create their own review questions or practice test to share with their study group.  This way, students will first review the material by creating the questions for their study group.  Then, students will also review the material in a new way by answering the practice tests created by their peers.  Students can even make comparisons between what the student found most important about the topic to peers perceived to be most important.  Creating and exchanging practice tests with a peer or study group will also provide the learner with several different sources of questions and practice test examples to review. 


            As detailed in this section, college students must first ensure that they are engaging in regular practice, reflection, and review of course content, so that the information becomes stored in students’ working memory.  Then, students should focus on transferring that information in their working memory to students’ long-term memory.  If the information and skills form part of students’ long-term memory, students will be able to retain the information learned as well as be able to retrieve the information when necessary.  Students can facilitate this transfer to long-term memory by having ongoing, distributed practice with course content.  Students can further support long-term memory development by using multiple modalities and exposures to the content.  Likewise, students can enhance their long-term memory by purposefully using organizational tools and strategies to help their brains organize information.  Students should also regularly self-assess their knowledge on a topic through pre-tests or practice tests, which will support students’ ability to remember other related information. 


Students listening to training

"A student paying attention as Assistant Public Affairs Officer Courtney Woods talking about election campaigns in the U.S."  US Embassy Phnom Penh.






            The present chapter provides college students with important knowledge concerning academic motivation, attention, and memory.  The chapter details how these topics interrelate to each other and how they each prove essential to academic success in college.  Additionally, the chapter offers college students with several specific strategies to improve their academic motivation, attention, and memory abilities.  Practical ways students can improve their motivation involve building their sense of self-efficacy, reflecting on how effort contributes to success, and exploring their intrinsic interests related to course content.  Since attention is a requisite of learning, students should ensure that they reduce multitasking distractions and adopt strategies to focus their attention on their coursework.  Finally, college students should concentrate not only on developing working memory of content but on developing long-term memory, which will allow students to retrieve the information and skills for future assessments and tasks.  Students can facilitate the transfer of information to their long-term memory in a variety of ways.  One way includes actively engaging with the content through regular, distributed practice. During these practice opportunities, students should utilize multiple sensory modalities to learn the content. In addition, students can improve their long-term memory by using organizational strategies, organizational tools, and practice tests/assessments to help their brains classify and review key knowledge. 


Next, chapter four will discuss learning styles and how students can learn more about their learning style through completing learning inventories.  The chapter will further detail how students can apply their knowledge of their learning style to support their learning in their college courses



Bloom, B. (Ed.), Engelhart, M., First, E., Hill, W. & Krathwohl, D. (1956).  Taxonomy ofeducational objectives: The classification of educational goals.  Handbook 1: Cognitive domain.  New York: David McKay. 


Middleton, M., & Perks, K. (2016). Motivation to learn : transforming classroom culture tosupport student achievement / Michael Middleton & Kevin Perks.


Rekart, J. L. (2013). The cognitive classroom : using brain and cognitive science to optimize student success / Jerome L. Rekart.

Chapter 4: Learning Theories and Styles


            While this text has already offered a generalized discussion of how humans learn through covering topics such as cognitive development (Chapter 2) and motivation, attention, and memory (Chapter 3), the following chapter will provide increased specificity related to learning theories.  The chapter will begin by summarizing key learning theories such as behaviorism, social learning theory, cognitivism, and multiple intelligences theory.  Later, the chapter will detail how understanding one’s learning style can assist students (as well as educators) in determining the ideal environment, format, and conditions for an individual’s learning.  The chapter will specifically review one learning style system, the Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Model,  which has decades of supporting empirical research backing its conclusions.  Finally, the chapter will introduce the academic tool of learning inventories, which can offer insights on students’ learning styles and preferences. 

Students conducting field work on a mountain top

"CWR Capacity Building Course in Chile" by Global Crop Diversity Trust is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Learning Theories



Behaviorism contends that people learn from personal experience, noticeably changing their behavior through learning from previous outcomes.  In short, the theory argues that humans learn primarily through “trial and error.” Behaviorism focuses on changes to a person’s observable behaviors (rather than changes within a person’s inner thoughts or feelings).  According to Behaviorist theory, observable behaviors result from a person’s conditioning, or the feedback and results that a person receives after engaging in a specific action. Humans and animals learn primarily through positive and negative reinforcement.  When humans receive positive reinforcement such as favorable outcomes, rewards, pleasure, or praise, humans are likely to repeat the desired behavior.  However, when humans garner negative reinforcement such as pain, fear, criticism, or social exclusion, they will choose to refrain from the behavior that caused the undesirable outcomes.  After many occurrences of a learner repeating an action that results in positive reinforcement, the learner will develop enduring understanding (Bélanger, 2011).


Employees brainstorming using an interactive web

"Social Learning evidence gathering workshop June" by CGIAR Climate is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Social Learning Theory


            In contrast to Behaviorism Theory which argues that humans primarily learn from personal experience, Social Learning Theory believes that humans learn primarily from observing others within their community.  Through imitating the desired behaviors of their teachers, caregivers, colleagues, and friends, a person obtains relevant practical knowledge, skills, and cultural norms.  More knowledgeable individuals model desired behavior which people then attempt to imitate.  Likewise, humans modify whether they choose to imitate and reproduce a given behavior based on observing how society reacts to others engaging in the same, given behavior.  If an individual sees another person receive punishment for exhibiting a particular behavior, the individual will likely choose to avoid imitating the behavior.  However, if the individual observes that others are receiving praise or rewards for a particular behavior, the individual will feel an incentive to copy the behavior.  Thus, social learning theory combines the Behaviorist concept of positive and negative reinforcement with the socio-cultural belief that humans learn primarily through interacting with others. Social learning theory, however, also believes that a person’s own learning not solely results from observing others or experiencing rewards or punishments, but derives from a melding of these factors with a person’s own perspectives and expectations (Taylor & MacKenney, 2008). 





            Cognitivism considers how the brain works to store and retrieve information, comparing the brain’s processing to that of a computer. The theory argues that learning is not merely a result of trial and error (Behaviorist thought) or observing and interacting with others (social learning theory), but rather, a process fueled by the brain’s ability to store information into long-term memory, recall the information, and logically apply the information to new situations.  Cognitivists emphasize the need for educators to consider how learners store recently-acquired information into their long-term memory, or schema.  According to this learning theory, the brain organizes long-term memory, or schema, into categories.  The brain further forms mental bridges between the categories, facilitating retrieval of the information when the situation arises. 

New learning builds upon the learner’s pre-existing schema, and as such,  a student’s background knowledge plays a principal role in influencing students’ acquisition of new information (Saunders & Wong, 2020). 


Professor using brain sensor device

"Predicting cognitive test performance" by SandiaLabs is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


            Cognitivism emphasizes that learners practice through retrieval exercises, where the learner must actively engage in remembering previously learned information.  This is in stark contrast to rote learning, or repeated “drilling” of information, since this requires little original thought on the behalf of the learner.  The learner should provide spaced intervals of time between reviewing recently-acquired knowledge, rather than “cramming” information into one’s memory for a short, intense period of time.  Moreover, related information should be introduced together, so that the learner can form connections between the content, stimulating the later recall of the information.  Regular assessments, such as quizzes or exams, can prove particularly useful, as the assessments require the learner to review previously learned information, recall information within a given context, and self-evaluate areas in need of additional review.  Cognitivists further advocate the advantages of problem-based learning activities in which the learner must first attempt to solve a situation on their own, troubleshooting and recognizing  possible errors in their initial attempt, before learning the answer from an educator (Saunders and Wong, 2020). 


Multiple Intelligences

Multiple Intelligences

"Multiple Intelligences (Writing III, 2008, males)" by pabeaufait is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Multiple Intelligences


Howard Gardner (1983, 1999) developed the theory of multiple intelligences which considers a person’s ability to solve problems and create meaningful products in a culturally-relevant, natural environment according to a particular context.  Gardner’s theory counters the idea that a person’s intelligence is a person’s IQ score or that one type of  intellect is superior to other forms.  Rather, there exist eight unique forms of intelligence, all of which have importance and value in society. Brain and psychology research form the foundation of the theory.  Gardner noted that each of these intelligences harnessed unique sectors of the brain and possessed separate evolutionary histories.   The types of intelligence also had particular subsets of accomplished individuals, sets of operations, and symbolic representations. Specifically, Gardner identified eight different intelligences that a person could possess, which will be enumerated and described below:


Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence- ability to physically utilize one’s body to create products, represent feelings, or demonstrate ideas. Some of the capabilities related to this form of intelligence would include tactile abilities, coordination, balance, flexibility, speed, and strength.  Successful artists, mechanics, technicians, athletes, actors, and dancers generally possess significant levels of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.


Interpersonal Intelligence- the perception and understanding of others’ emotions, motivations, moods, and goals.  Interpersonal intelligence requires a person to be able to conceptualize how another person feels or thinks by observing subtle changes in the person’s voice inflections, movements, or facial expressions.  Moreover, the ability to take one’s observations of others and apply those observations to affect positive outcomes also forms part of interpersonal intelligence.  Effective managers need significant interpersonal intelligence to motivate their teams to complete a common goal.  Psychologists, social workers, human resource workers, and other socially-related professions ideally should possess substantial interpersonal intelligence. 


Intrapersonal Intelligence- a person’s understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses, limitations, emotions, and motivations.  Intrapersonal intelligence also features a person’s ability to modify their behavior based on their recognition of the qualities detailed above.  Most professions would require intrapersonal intelligence, but self-employed individuals such as entrepreneurs, writers, farmers, and business owners may especially need intrapersonal intelligence. 


Linguistic Intelligence- the capability of expressing oneself through  words orally or in written format for such purposes as explanation or persuasion.  A person with linguistic intelligence can manipulate various parts of language such as sounds (phonemes), structure (syntax), meanings (semantics), and application of language (pragmatics).  Writers, politicians, journalists, and teachers especially harness their linguistic intelligence to effectively relay meaning. 


Logical-Mathematical Intelligence- the understanding of logical and numerical patterns and relationships with the ability to apply that understanding to complete real-world tasks.  Some particular thinking processes associated with logical-mathematical intelligence are classification and categorization, making inferences, calculating values, and evaluating hypotheses.  Fields such as the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, law, and public policy require logical-mathematical intelligence. 


Musical Intelligence- the capability to interpret and/or create music as a form of expression.  Understanding pitch, rhythm, and tone are important elements of musical intelligence; musical performers, composers, dancers, and critics adopt musical intelligence in their professions. 


Naturalist Intelligence- a knowledge of the organisms, the environment,  and natural phenomena.  A person who holds naturalist intelligence observes, discovers, and interprets information related to the living and non-living elements in her/his environment.  Scientists, environmentalists, park rangers, farmers, landscape artists and others regularly apply their naturalist intelligence to support their work. 


Spatial Intelligence- the capacity to visually conceptualize and represent spatial dimensions, paying close attention to shape, distance, size, and color.  Graphical orientation is a skill possessed by those with spatial intelligence, as is the ability to orient oneself spatially in relation to other objects or beings.  Architects, cartographers, surveyors, artists, engineers, and inventors often hold large levels of spatial intelligence. 


            While Multiple Intelligences Theory separates intelligences into eight specific categories, people possess all eight intelligences.  However, the level of each form of intelligence within a given person varies.  Most people can acquire a standard level of competency in all intelligences with the proper instruction, support, and encouragement.  Furthermore, the intelligences interact together, and most tasks require various intelligences to complete (Gardner, 1983, 1999; cited in Armstrong, 2018). 



Culinary students making pastries

"Craft Based Learning" by Les Roches


Learning Styles and Inventories

Learning Styles

            Over a span of  several decades, Dunn and Dunn developed a comprehensive model to explain individual’s preferences related to learning style.  The authors defined learning style as the way a person concentrates, conceptualizes, internalizes, and retains information.  Overall, Dunn and Dunn considered 21 separate components of learning, which can be organized into five categories–environmental,  emotional, sociological, physiological, and psychological. Educators have applied Dunn and Dunn’s learning style model to tailor their instruction to their students’ particular learning predilections, leading to increased student learning outcomes in elementary schools, secondary schools, and postsecondary institutions (Dunne & Burke, 2006; Dunn & Griggs, 2000; Dunne & Honigsfeld, 2009; Lovelace, 2005; Searson & Dunn, 2001).  A description of Dunn and Dunn’s learning style model will be provided below, grouped by category. 


Environmental Factors:  These factors involve the physical setting in which a person engages in learning. A person will have individual learning preferences related to the sound, light, temperature, and seating arrangements.  For example, some students will prefer working in silence, while others will prefer background music.  In terms of seating, some forms of seating may be more comfortable to particular students and encourage increased attention (Dunn & Burke, 2006).


Students having a conversation on steps

"T-550 Session 3 - Constructionist Learning Environments" by tfivefifty is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Sociological Factors:  Students, likewise, have predispositions for the social dynamics of learning.  Some students prefer to work independently, while others prefer working with a partner.  Other students like working with peers or working in a team-setting with fixed group roles.  Some students feel most comfortable in the traditional, teacher-led environment in which an authority figure imparts knowledge.  Many students also enjoy having the opportunity to engage in a variety of social structures when learning (Dunn & Burke, 2006). 


Emotional Factors: Motivation, persistence, responsibility, and structural preferences form the emotional factors that influence learning.  Dunn and Dunn consider responsibility to include whether the learner wishes to conform to given norms or opt for non-conformity.  In terms of structural preferences, students may seek a set structure with fixed guidelines or, on the other hand, desire open-ended structures that allow students to make their own choices on how they pursue their learning (Dunne & Honigsfeld, 2009) . 


Physiological Characteristics:  According to Dunn and Burke (2006),  physiological preferences include perceptual, intake, time of day, and mobility proclivities.   In terms of perceptual conditions, students may be more inclined to learn things through various ways including through auditory (listening), visual (seeing and observing), kinesthetic (movement), and tactual (hands-on learning) means.  Intake considers whether a learner likes to engage in eating and/or drinking while they learn.  Discovering what part of the day or time frame a person is most attentive also proves beneficial, as this, likewise, varies greatly across age groups and within groups as well.  Finally, some learners focus better sitting still while others need to be moving while they learn  (Dunn & Burke, 2006). 


Psychological Processing Inclinations: processing inclinations involve how the learner prioritizes receiving information and formulating conclusions.  Specifically, Dunn and Dunn (2006) classify students as having a preference for either analytic or global presentations of information. Some students learn better when information is presented in an analytical manner that follows a step-by-step process that eventually leads to an overarching understanding of a concept.  Other students enjoy seeing the big-picture or concept first, and then learning of the specifics related to the concept.  Other types of global learning preferences can feature the learner first desiring to hear a story or to listen to an anecdote that contains visual examples before the learner receives context-specific particulars. Moreover, some students are more impulsive in nature when it comes to how they formulate their conclusions and apply their conclusions to a given situation,  acting quickly based on their senses, emotions, and instinct.  Reflective individuals, on the other hand, consider all possible options before they develop a conclusion.  When applying the conclusion to a given situation, reflective individuals may also regularly pause to consider the validity of their conclusion or whether their actions proved ideal (Dunn & Burke, 2006).



Learning Inventories


Learning inventories are tools which help educators and students determine the students’ learning preferences.  Often, the learner will self-assess their learning preferences by answering a list of multiple choice or “yes or no” questions.  Once students receive a score, they can utilize what they learned in their inventory to shape future studying habits.  Educators, likewise, with the permission of students or their guardians, can ask students to take learning inventories and use the results to modify their instruction.  Many college libraries, advising centers, and/or student support offices offer copies of learning inventories free of charge for students to take.  Various learning inventories are available free online, while others may charge a fee to be able to take the survey and receive results.  The author only cautions students who choose to select their own learning inventories online that they do their research.  Students should only consider results from research-supported, learning inventories that are supported by empirical research from several, peer-reviewed studies. 



            After reading the chapter, students should now have a better understanding of the specific theories related to how people learn.  Behaviorism focuses on a person learning through personal experience, repetition, and trial and error.  Social Learning Theory contends that people learn primarily through sharing information with others and observing how others complete tasks.  Cognitivism emphasizes the study of how the brain categorizes and processes newly acquired knowledge by forming connections to prior knowledge (schema).  Multiple Intelligences Theory argues that there is not one form of knowledge that proves superior to others; rather, various forms of knowledge have important value.  Indeed, while each person’s relative level of each of the eight intelligences varies, people possess all eight intelligences–bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, naturalist, and spatial–and combine the intelligences to perform most daily tasks from simple to complex. 

Woman reading among a backdrop of books

"The Learning Process." by rubyblossom. is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Besides conceptualizing how people acquire new knowledge, it is, likewise, important to learn how people prefer to learn and the ideal conditions for each individual’s learning.  Understanding Learning Styles proves particularly important to this endeavor.  One particular learning style framework that has been supported by a plethora of academic research is Dunn and Dunn’s Learning Style Model, which organizes learning styles into five categories: environmental factors, sociological factors, emotional factors, physiological characteristics, and psychological processing inclinations.  After students understand the concept of learning styles, students can seek out opportunities at their college or university to take learning style inventories.  Once they take the learning style inventory, students can apply their new understanding of their learning preferences to their study habits and course delivery choices. 

In the next chapter, students will learn practical study techniques that students can utilize in their classes to be academically successful. 


Armstrong. (2017). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Bélanger, P. (2011). Theories in Adult Learning and Education. Verlag Barbara Budrich.  Dunn, R. & Burke, K. (2006).  “Learning style: the clue to You.” Microsoft Word - Reserach&ImplementationManual_LSCY.doc (

Dunn, R. S., & Griggs, S. A. (2000). Practical Approaches to Using Learning Styles in Higher Education. ABC-CLIO.

Dunn, R. & Honigsfeld, A. (2009). Differentiating instruction for at-risk students [electronic resource] : what to do and how to do it / Rita Dunn and Andrea Honigsfeld. Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: BasicBooks.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books.

Lovelace, M. (2005). Meta-Analysis of Experimental Research Based on the Dunn and Dunn Model. The Journal of Educational Research (Washington, D.C.), 98(3), 176–183.

Saunders, L. & Wong, M (2020).  Instruction in Libraries and Information Centers.  Windsor & Downs Press. Urbana, Illinois.

Searson, R., & Dunn, R. (2001). The learning-style teaching model. Science and Children, 38(5), 22-26. 

Taylor, G. R., & MacKenney, L. (2008). Improving human learning in the classroom [electronic resource] : theories and teaching practices.  Rowman & Littlefield Education.


[1] Bloom and colleagues (1956) developed a t a xonomy for ranking levels of thinking, spanning from lower-order, basic thinking skills upwards to higher-order, critical thinking skills. The text describes Bloom and colleagues’ (1956) work in greater detail in chapter 1.

Chapter 5: Exploring Careers, Setting Goals, and Creating an Academic Plan

Employer speaking with a student at a career fair

Image Citation: Henderson State University.  Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License.  Career Fair | Oct. 17, 2017 | HendersonStateU | Flickr.  No changes made.



        Previous chapters have primarily focused on topics related to student learning such as cognitive development, motivation, attention, memory, and learning styles.  The next chapter concentrates on the pragmatic purposes of pursuing higher education–career preparation and achieving one’s future academic and professional goals.  In the following chapter, readers will gain knowledge of how to effectively research possible careers, set career-related goals, and create a cohesive academic plan for their coursework.  Since many community college students aspire to eventually earn their bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university, the final section of the chapter will describe the transfer process.


Career Exploration

       Career exploration proves an important element of the college experience.  Naturally, college students ponder what will come next in their lives once they finish their formal schooling.  At community colleges, technical schools, and universities, students can receive career advice, mentorship, and information not only from their professors, but also from college staff whose job duties particularly focus on supporting students’ job placement.  Moreover, many colleges help inform students of particular internship opportunities and host job fairs to connect students with local employers.  For many college students, the end goal of pursuing higher education is to develop themselves intellectually, socially, and professionally so that they may be adequately prepared for their future careers.  Because of all of these factors, the following section will detail tangible steps which students can take to learn more about possible career interests and to prepare themselves for their future professions.

 Step 1: Consider Your Skills and Abilities

       According to Shatkin & Farr (2011), the first step for researching future career options involves determining one’s skills and abilities.  Workers are more likely to be satisfied with jobs in which they utilize talents that are meaningful to them.  While a person may have natural talents, a person can acquire skills through formal education, training, and work experience.  Indeed, research shows that, on average, the more education or formal training a person pursues, the higher the salary the person will earn throughout their professional career (Shatkin & Farr, 2011).  Shatkin & Farr (2011) categorize skills into three categories: adaptive skills, transferable skills, and job-related skills. 

professor working with female students  in a lab


Image Citation: "Science Careers in Search of Women" by Argonne National Laboratory is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.


       Adaptive skills include abilities related to positively responding to new situations and changes.  These types of skills can be workplace readiness skills such as the ability to arrive on time, maintain a schedule, and respectfully communicate with coworkers.  Other adaptive skills include having a positive attitude, respecting diversity, being honest, and being well-organized (Shatkin & Farr, 2011).  

       Transferable skills feature competencies that can be applied to various jobs.   Some key transferable skills include the ability to solve problems, meet deadlines, plan, instruct others, manage money and budgets, utilize computers and other technology, and communicate effectively through speaking and writing. Some transferable skills related to data-management are the ability to research, compile, organize, analyze, and synthesize data.  Some “people skills” that are transferable to various occupations include the ability to listen, trust, negotiate, and demonstrate.  Transferable communication skills can entail the ability to think logically, create new ideas, and articulate one’s perspective.  Moreover, many leadership skills such as the ability to motivate others, delegate authority, run meetings, mediate problems, and organize events correspond to various occupations.  Some examples of creative transferable capabilities include the ability to artistically present one’s ideas, design products, and express oneself.  

       Finally, job-related skills are unique to particular occupations.  For example, surgeons need the specific ability to conduct medical procedures in the least-invasive and safest way possible.  Guitar players need to have the ability to play major chords and read music.  Fire fighters must have the ability to operate machinery related to extinguishing fires and to maintain their fire-protective equipment (Shatkin & Farr, 2011).  

Students working at a construction site

Image Citation: "School To Career 2012/2013 Replacement Naval Hospital Project U.S. Navy photo by Jesse A. Lora, NAVFAC (SW)" by NAVFAC is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Step 2:  Seek Out Careers Related to Your Interests

      After determining their skills, career explorers should consider their interests.  According to Shatkin & Farr (2011), people are often interested in professions that they find meaningful and enjoyable.  Similarly, job seekers choose interest areas in which they already feel confident in their abilities and their probability for success.  In order to make the identification of possible interest areas easily accessible for the career explorer, the U.S. Department of Education identified 16 general occupational interest areas.  Those who are exploring careers can learn about each of these general occupational interest areas, which will aid them in determining their job interests (Farr & Shatkin, 2005; Shatkin & Farr, 2011).  If someone is unsure how their preferences relate to specific careers, one should consider how their prior education, training, and work experience relate to specific fields.  Likewise, a person’s leisure activities such as their hobbies and extracurricular pursuits can offer insight into possible career areas that might prove particularly interesting for that person (Shatkin & Farr, 2011).  The 16 general occupational interest areas include the following:

Agriculture and Natural Resources-the cultivation, nurturing, and production of plants, forests, and animals.  The extraction of lumber and minerals would also be included in this category as would the organization and/or beautification of natural areas, such as gardens, lawns, or parks. 

Architecture and Construction-the interest area related to the design, development, maintenance, or renovation of buildings and other forms of human-made structures. 

Scientific Research, Engineering, and Mathematics- an interest in experimentation related to the natural world and the collection and analysis of data from said experimentation.  This interest area includes fields related to natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics, mathematics, and medical research.

Information Technology-careers related to the creation, organization, and maintenance of digital hardware, virtual databases, and online systems. 

Health Science-this area focuses on providing health care to either humans or animals.  Practitioners in this field can specialize in particular aspects of the body or can support the patient holistically.  Health Science-related careers can also include the use of medical technology to improve care for living beings.

Human Service-an interest field devoted to supporting people’s emotional, social, mental, and spiritual needs.  Careers in social work, religious organizations, counseling, and caretaking all fall into the category of Human Service.  


Teacher working with high school student

Image Citation: "Careers and employability" by uonottingham is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Education and Training- supporting others’ academic and professional development.  Pursuing a career in this field could involve facilitating students’ learning in schools, libraries, organizations, or museums.  


Arts and Communication-a career interest area related to the expression of ideas through visual arts, music, or informational media/journalism.  


Law and Public Safety-a career field centered upon the protection of people and property through the enforcement of laws and legal authority.  Jobs related to the policing and investigation of crimes fall into this category as do careers in law and fire-fighting. 


Government and Public Administration-an occupational interest area dedicated to serving the local or national community by means of government agencies, programs, or policies.  


Business and Administration-an interest focus related to helping private companies and enterprises grow and function effectively.  Careers in human resources, accounting, marketing, and business management form part of this category.  


Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation- a career sector that emphasizes supporting others’ leisure activities including dining out, traveling, sight-seeing, physical activities, and exploring nature.


Finance and Insurance-a field that concentrates on providing financial security to businesses and people.  Workers in this field analyze financial information, manage money, or sell insurance or financial services.


Manufacturing-a career focus that deals with the production of goods or products, including the maintenance of the machinery used to fabricate the goods.  


Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics-an interest in helping people and products move to their intended destination.  This field includes people who are drivers, pilots, or logistical coordinators.


Retail and Wholesale Sales and Service-workers in this sector use their communication skills to persuade others to purchase products or to provide assistance to customers.


       While this list of career areas proves extensive to say the least, it is likely a worthwhile endeavor to reflect on one’s relative interest in each of these career areas.  As discussed earlier,  employees often benefit from seeking out jobs that they are passionate about and find challenging.

Police officers

Image Citation: "Kirking of the Council - City of Inverness Scotland - Northern Constabulary staff [EXPLORED]" by conner395 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


Step 3: Identify Jobs that are Meaningful


       The third step in a person’s career exploration journey involves considering what one finds meaningful.  If a person finds that they are more motivated to complete certain tasks or find producing particular outcomes satisfying, one should attempt to find a career that has these important elements.  In addition, one’s personal values often determine the jobs that they believe are important. The meaningfulness that one receives from work plays a pivotal role for many job seekers.  Many people seek both purpose and enjoyment in their work (Shatkin & Farr, 2011).  While some will be satisfied simply by earning a good salary, others appreciate the work relationships with coworkers they build.  Anyone who has seen a few episodes of the popular sitcom “The Office,” which satirizes modern American office culture, will probably conclude that most of the characters on the show stay at the fictional paper company, Dunder Mifflin, not for the thrill of selling and shipping paper, but for the friendships that they have built over the years.  Indeed, many extroverts purposefully seek out jobs in which they will work collaboratively on a team or in which they will regularly interact with others.  Likewise, others will find particular meaning in the outcomes of their work such as the positive impacts they make on others.  Teachers, social workers, medical professionals, and first responders often choose their careers based on their desire to give back to their communities.  Others are motivated by the innovations that they can add to their field.  For example, artists, scientists, researchers, architects, engineers, and writers all reflect significantly on the products and contributions that they made for their respective fields.


Step 4: Reflect on Other Associated Factors such as Salary, Location, and Working Environment


       Other factors such as salary, job location, stability, work-life balance, relative autonomy, and the education/training required for particular jobs should be considered when making a decision about one’s career.  Unsurprisingly, many people place significant importance on financial considerations, such as the salary that they will receive.  Many people have an expected level of financial comfort that they desire so examining the average salary of professions proves worthwhile.  When examining different salaries, job seekers should also consider the nature of pay.  For example, does a particular career have an hourly pay rate, a fixed salary, or variations in total pay based on performance such as commission or bonus pay structures?  Furthermore, benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans also factor into a person’s net “take home pay” from a given job.

Employees in office working

Image Citation: "Easigrass creating a new office environment for all to enjoy E7" by Easigrass Community is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


       Aspiring professionals will likely consider location as an important factor in their job decisions.  Many choose to be close to family, friends, or people with similar age ranges, political beliefs, and social norms.  Others particularly seek out jobs that are located in areas with low costs of living or that have good schools.  Some even choose jobs located in particular environmental settings and climates.  A college student would be wise to not only find a job that they find interesting, meaningful, and rewarding, but also a job that is located in a place where college students could see themselves living for an extended period of time and possibly even raising a family.  

       Moreover, for many young job seekers, the relative stability of a career can also be a factor in a person’s career decision.  Some people enjoy the excitement that comes from change and uncertainty, while others would prefer a job in which there exists significant job security and predictability.  For example, people who work in sales, tourism, and management careers are likely to experience job transition within an organization or between organizations at some point in their careers.  However, people who work in education, public service, and government may never change jobs or organizations, choosing to complete their entire working career at the same institution.  

       Work-life balance is another factor upon which one should reflect. Some jobs have a fixed 9AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, schedule, while others have irregular schedules that change based on the season or particular job demands.  Some jobs require employees to work a fixed, 40 hours, work week and do not require travel.  On the other hand, other jobs will often require significant hours of overtime or extensive travel in which the worker is away from her or his family.  In many professional careers in health and medicine, business management, education, tourism and recreation, and other fields, employees will be expected to be on-call if a need arises.  The vacation time a person receives also forms part of the work-life balance aspect of a career.  Examining the vacation packages, sick leave policies, and the systems for accruing additional time-off for potential positions would prove a worthwhile endeavor for job seekers.  

      Furthermore, the relative autonomy that workers receive on the job should also weigh into career decisions.  In some careers, like in the retail and service industries, a worker may have little autonomy.  Workers will need to strictly follow the schedule, requests, and plans of others.  On the other hand, educators, artists, and scientific researchers often have significant control of their time and work activities.  As such, college students should consider what kind of work environment would fit their personality and working preferences.  


Recommended Resource: 

My Next Move-


“My Next Move” is a website created by the U.S Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration.  Students considering various careers can search careers by key words or examine different careers in particular industries.  


In addition, students who are unsure of a particular career or industry or who would like to better define their career interests can take a brief survey called the O*net Interest Profiler (Direct Link: O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move), which is part of the “My Next Move” website.  


The O*net Interest Profiler will help students determine their level of interest in the following broad categories: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional.   Job explorers can take a brief survey to identify their relative interest level in each of the aforementioned categories.  Then, they can choose how much job preparation such as experience, training, and/or education that they desire to complete before entering into their career.  Next, people who complete the O*net Interest Profiler can see a list of careers that match their interests and their desired amount of pre-career preparation. Then, they can examine each suggested career, exploring the knowledge, skills, technology proficiency, abilities, personality type, and prerequisite education needed for the career. Job explorers can see the job outlook of a particular career at the national or individual state level and even examine average national and local salaries.


Setting Career-Focused Goals

      Establishing goals for one’s career proves an essential element of supporting a person’s attainment of their desired career.  As Greco and Kraimer (2020) note, goal setting is necessary for a person’s career progression.  Specifically, with more career options and nearly unlimited amounts of choice, employees (as well as future employees) must determine for themselves how they would like to define their work selves, rather than assume that outside forces such as companies, organizations, or colleges, will decide career goals on behalf of employees.  

       Moreover, establishing career goals helps career-focused individuals organize their energy, attention, and time to their particular career objective.  Career goal setting also has been associated with increased job satisfaction and commitment to one’s organization and job  (Greco & Kraimer, 2020).  


Image Citation: "File:The Wall of personal goals 01.jpg" by Kritzolina is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Map with sticky notes of goals


       Goals can be separated into short-term goals and long-term goals.  Short-term goals are objectives that can be completed between a span of six months to three years.  Long term goals, on the other hand, will take more than 3 years to accomplish.  A long-term goal is often composed of the completion of a series of short-term goals, or milestones.  In fact, Sean Peek (2020), writing for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce editorial website, recommends that a person compose their long-term goals based on how they visualize the ideal lifestyle that they would want in ten years.  Then, one should think backwards from their long-term goal to break the goal into smaller, more manageable pieces, or short-term goals.  While creating short-term goals, people should formulate SMART goals (which will be described in further detail below), measure and reflect on their progress in achieving their goals, and adjust their goals if needed based on changes in one’s circumstances and priorities (Peek, 2020).  


SMART goals


     One commonly-accepted system for setting goals involves the creation of SMART goals.  SMART goals feature a detailed explanation of what a person intends to achieve.  SMART goals also contain a description of particular outcomes that need to be accomplished and a timeframe for completion of a goal.  

      The University of California System (2017) created a guide for how to create SMART goals.  The authors of the guide explain that SMART goals are an acronym to describe goal statements that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.  A description of each of these elements of a SMART goal follows below:



Image Citation: "001_365_01.01.2013" by plnaugle is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Specific: A goal that details a particular objective and the specific plan for action.  A specific goal statement will answer the common “W” questions- Who? What? When? Where? Which? and Why?  Indeed, specific questions describe who will be needed to complete the goal and what are the characteristics of a completed goal.  A specific goal statement would also describe when particular timelines would need to be completed and where work, outcomes, and/or events would need to take place for the goal to be accomplished.  Likewise, specificity also would entail a person identifying which possible standards would need to be met and which obstacles might need to be overcome.    Finally, a specific goal statement would explain why the goal was created in the first place.


Measurable:  When a goal statement is measurable, the goal setter has the ability to evaluate her or his progress in achieving the goal. When a detailed criteria has been established, goals become more feasible.  If a goal is a long-term goal that will take a significant amount of time to complete, milestones, or progress check points, can prove beneficial in organizing one’s time and efforts.


Achievable:  It is important that one considers whether the goal that they propose is reasonable and attainable, given the goal setter’s current skills, training, knowledge, and available time.  Falling short of a goal that was too ambitious or unrealistic will likely lower a person’s overall motivation.  While having dreams can prove inspirational, focusing on realistic goals, especially in the short-term, will likely yield much more tangible and immediate results.  


Relevant: When considering a beneficial goal statement, one should remember that the relevance, or applicability, of a goal proves especially important.  College students should consider goals that directly relate to their experiences and realities.  For example, a college student who plans to live in the Southwestern United States for their entire lives should avoid creating an irrelevant goal related to working in the arctic fishery industry.  Yes, this might be an exciting goal, but if the student never plans to spend a significant amount of time in the arctic, this goal would just be a distraction due to its lack of relevance to that student’s reality.  


Time-bound: Goals that have a time-bound element contain achievable deadlines that the person who is creating the goal can meet.  Establishing a timeline for important deliverables related to the goal helps to keep the goal-setter accountable.  The timeline serves as a regular reminder that the goal should be completed within a specific timeframe. Furthermore, establishing due dates instills a sense of urgency in the person pursuing their goal, thus serving as a motivation force for that person to continuously work on the goal. If the final due date is several months to a year away, it is helpful to break up the due dates into smaller pieces with shorter timeframes assigned for each individual part of the comprehensive goal (“SMART Goals: A How to Guide,” 2017). 


Example 1:

Reggie is a college sophomore who works as an after-school counselor for elementary children at a local non-profit organization.  Reggie always liked school, and he enjoyed participating in many different extracurricular activities in high school.  Reggie enjoys his job as an after-school counselor and has decided that he wants to become a teacher.  Reggie decides to create the following SMART goal:


"Within the three remaining years of undergraduate coursework, earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and fulfill the teacher certification program requirements that include student teaching and passing standardized teaching certification exams.


Reggie’s goal is SMART for the following reasons:


Specific: The goal statement described a particular major and listed the certification procedures that Reggie would take to earn his teaching certification.


Measurable: The fulfillment of Reggie’s goal can easily be measured based on whether or not Reggie graduates with his bachelor’s degree and teacher certification.


Achievable:  Reggie already had significant experience working at a job that relates to his intended career and has a history of performing well in his academic coursework.


Relevant: Reggie’s goal matches his interests and skills.


Timely: Reggie set a particular time-frame of three years to earn his bachelor’s degree and teacher certification.  


As one can see, Reggie has constructed a meaningful and effective SMART goal for his college studies and pre-career training.  After completing this foundational goal, Reggie will likely create additional career-related SMART goals that detail how Reggie intends to seek employment and/or gain additional relevant experience.  


Example 2: Rebecca


Rebecca is a freshman college student who was a strong student in high school.  While she performed well in all of her high school classes, her favorite courses were in the sciences, such as biology and chemistry.  During the summers as a high school student, Rebecca would volunteer in a research lab as a research assistant, and she also shadowed, or formerly observed, her childhood pediatrician. As a result, she is interested in pursuing a career related to biology and medicine.  Some possible careers that she is considering include medical doctor, veterinarian, research scientist, or biology professor.  All of these careers require both a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree. Thus, a SMART goal that Rebecca could create while she is completing her undergraduate degree could be the following:


"Complete her bachelor’s degree in biology within 4 years earning a 3.5 GPA or higher, while also taking the required prerequisite courses that would allow her to apply for graduate school.”


Rebecca’s goal is SMART:


Specific: Rebecca knows the particular degree and courses that she will need to take.

Measurable: She can determine if she met the goal by evaluating her progress in completing each course as well as her overall progress in earning a biology degree.


Achievable: Rebecca has a history of academic success in science courses in high school, so she has a high probability of accomplishing her goal.


Relevant: Her academic interests directly relate to her career options and overarching goal.  Rebecca also has explored these career interests through her volunteer work during the summers.


Timely:  Rebecca gave herself four years to complete the entire goal of earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and completing her prerequisite coursework.  Within that larger time span of four years, Rebecca can refer back to the course progression and recommended timeline within her institution’s biology degree plan to track her progress in completing each required course.  


Rebecca’s initial goal was to obtain her biology degree, maintain a high grade point average, and complete required prerequisites for graduate study.  Once she completes this initial goal, she will likely make other SMART goals related to taking the required admission tests for the graduate program of her choice, applying for the program, and completing her graduate degree. Eventually, if she accomplishes each of these smaller goals, she will obtain her larger career goal of working as a professional in a field related to biology.  

Creating an Academic Plan

       In addition to creating SMART career-related goals,  students should also decide upon a formal academic plan for completing their higher education coursework.  Students can formulate this academic plan by choosing a particular academic program, major, or certification area, and then following the program’s degree plan to ensure completion of the course of study.  In the following section, the process for identifying an academic program, major, or certification area will be discussed.  Information will also be provided about how to establish a degree plan.


Choosing an Academic Program, Major, or Certification Area

       Most higher education students are interested in earning a credential that demonstrates a particular knowledge base and skill-set that the students possess.  Credentials come in many forms and vary depending on the higher education institution.  Community colleges and trade schools often offer certificates in specific occupational fields, such as in welding, graphic design, and aviation maintenance. Students interested in careers that require or encourage professional certification will commonly choose to pursue certification in order to meet specific training and/or educational requirements of those careers. For this reason, certification programs focus on providing students with specialized, authentic knowledge and skills that can be immediately applied on-the-job.  


Poster saying "It's Time to Visit Your Academic Advisor"

Image Citation: "It's time..." by Karen T2008 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


      Community colleges further offer associate degrees that provide some fundamental knowledge in particular academic disciplines.  Many associate degrees can help students acquire specialized positions in particular industries such as emergency medical services, dental hygiene, radiography, and law enforcement.   Other associate degrees, such as associate degrees in education, the physical sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), and social sciences (history, sociology, criminal justice, economics, political science) serve as an initial credential that students will transfer to a four-year college or university, along with students’ coursework that they completed for their associate’s degrees.  

       Undergraduate students at four-year colleges and universities pursue a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in a specific academic major.  Some academic majors directly correspond to specific professions such as nursing, teaching, accounting, and engineering.  However, many academic majors provide generalized knowledge in a given academic discipline, and students can apply this knowledge to various careers. Some majors that provide general knowledge in a particular academic discipline include sociology, business, math, and psychology.  To illustrate, a student studying business could work in a variety of careers, including jobs in public administration, entrepreneurship, marketing, business management, hospitality and tourism, finance, or education.  

       Regardless of whether a student decides to pursue a particular certificate, associate’s degree program, or undergraduate academic major/bachelor’s degree program, a student would be wise to carefully weigh her or his decision. Indeed, the student should take into consideration several factors such as whether the program of study relates to the student’s academic interests, schedule, prior academic experiences, and career goals.  

      First, it is important that the student chooses an academic program that interests them intellectually.  In order to complete a specific certificate or degree program, students have to take several related courses (often between five to ten courses) within a given academic discipline.  As such, students will be exploring the academic discipline of their certificate, degree plan, or major in significant depth, devoting hundreds of hours to practicing, thinking about, and discussing topics related to that discipline.  As the reader has learned in previous chapters, students who learn about topics that they find meaningful, stimulating, and relevant are more likely to be intrinsically motivated to study the material.  Students who have intrinsic motivation to study subjects featured in their coursework are more likely to be academically successful in completing their coursework.

       Next, the student should consider if their schedule permits them to complete the various degree requirements within a given certificate program, degree program, or academic major.  Most certificate programs will require students to complete observational hours and on-the-job training hours.  Several academic majors, such as nursing, education, and social work require field-based training as well.  Depending on the college or university, students who pursue majors in business, criminal justice, or public policy might be required to complete an internship during a particular time of year or time of day.  Science and technology-related majors such as biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science generally require students to attend laboratory sections of many of their courses in which students engage in practical, hands-on learning projects related to the discipline.  Other majors in the arts and humanities such as dance, music, fine arts, and theater may have a stipulation that students participate in long-term, individual or group projects that feature a public demonstration of the final product.  Thus, it is essential that a student learn about the requirements of their certificate or degree, including the time and schedule requirements.  One way students can examine this is to read the published degree plan that their institution has for a given certificate or degree.  A degree plan lists the required prerequisites to enter into a given academic program, the courses that students will need to take, and the order in which students should complete the degree’s coursework.  Students can also contact their academic advisors at their college or university to seek information on outside-of-class responsibilities related to the field of study such as required field hours, internships, laboratory sections, projects, or presentations which students will need to complete in order to earn the given degree.  

      When choosing an academic certificate program or major, one should, likewise, reflect on whether the program of study directly relates to her or his desired career field.  As discussed earlier, most certificate programs and some academic majors train students to work in the particular industry or career in which the educational program is named.  Other academic majors provide students with content knowledge and general intellectual skills that can be applicable to various jobs.  For example, most science, technology, and engineering programs provide students with data organization, data computation, data analysis, and computer skills, which can be useful in various careers in business, public policy, management, and technology.  Students who are pursuing Liberal Arts majors in the arts, humanities, and social sciences will likely acquire research, writing, collaboration, and presentation skills which they can apply to careers in entertainment, government, business, education, journalism, or publishing.  

      When students conduct their initial research on possible careers, students can also research what particular certificates or academic majors relate to a given career.  While there certainly exist examples of students who studied philosophy and eventually became stock brokers, many employers seek out students who have particular academic and/or career training in the given field in which they are applying to work.  


Dental students practicing on a patient

Image Citation: "Dental Assistant Certification Program, July 25, 2012" by U.S. Army Garrison Casey is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


     Furthermore, college students should reflect on whether they have the personality, skills, and ability to successfully complete their given certificate program or degree program.  A person who is afraid of heights and struggles with anxiety will likely not be a very good fit to pursue a certificate in firefighting and fire protection which requires students to intern with a local fire department.  Similarly, a person who is highly social, extroverted, and regularly seeks out collaboration and companionship might struggle in a certificate program in programming or data management that requires the person to sit alone at a computer for hours on end.  An easy way to determine if a certificate program or degree program matches one’s skills, personality, and abilities is to think back about one’s prior experiences with those subjects.  Does one have a history of success in high school in courses that are related to the given college program?  Can the student identify some prior, positive experiences with the subject matter such as relevant work experiences, observational experiences, extracurricular activities, or completed projects?  If a student is unsure whether a given certificate program or major will be appropriate for the student’s personality and abilities, the student can always take one or two introductory courses in the given academic program before deciding on whether or not to concentrate their academic studies in the area. 

College Counselor speaking with high school student at college fair

Image Citation: "Snead State College Transfer Day, 01252011 07" by Larry Miller is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


Transferring to a Four-Year College or University


      Community college students interested in completing their bachelor’s degree will need to transfer to a four-year college or university after students have completed their foundational coursework at their community college.  If a community college student plans to eventually finish their undergraduate coursework at a four-year college or university, it is recommended that the student research at the beginning of their community college career which courses will transfer to the four-year institution.  When a course transfers to another institution, students receive credit for taking the course at their first institution, meaning that students do not have to take the course, or a similar-themed course, at their new institution.  Therefore, transfer students with transfer credits often enter their four-year institutions with credit for many of the classes that they completed at their community college.  This allows transfer students to save time and money.  Indeed, one of the most affordable ways to complete a bachelor’s degree in the United States is for students to start at their local community college, take the maximum number of courses that will transfer to a four-year institution, and then transfer to their local, public, state college or university.   


      Often, introductory courses or lower-level courses will transfer to the four-year institution.  However, a four-year college or university will require that students complete their upper-level or advanced coursework in their major at that four-year college or university.  Many academic advisors at community colleges are familiar with the courses that will transfer to regional four-year institutions. Apart from contacting their academic advisors at their community college, aspiring transfer students can also contact advisors in the universities where they intend to transfer.  In fact, many four-year colleges and universities have staff members that are specifically dedicated to assisting and advising transfer students.  Most public community colleges have partnerships with state public universities which allow a significant amount of students’ associate degree coursework to transfer to the public state universities.  Some states, such as Texas, even have a universal, core curriculum of foundational courses that are required to be completed in order to earn a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Since the core courses are the same across public institutions of higher education in Texas–community colleges, colleges, and universities–students are able to complete their core coursework at any Texas higher education institution.  Indeed, Texas college students are able to complete their core coursework at any community college and transfer all of their earned core course credits to any public college or university across the state.  Adopting a state-wide core curriculum in public higher education institutions helps ease the transfer process from community colleges to universities.  For those who are interested, a list of the Texas Common Core courses for any public institution of higher education in Texas can be found here:

      The next section will provide community college students who are interested in transferring to a four-year college or university with highly-recommended actions that transfer students can take to facilitate the transfer process.  The section concludes with an explanation of the required steps that all transfer students must take to transfer from a community college to a four-year university.


Recommendations for Community College Students Interested in Transferring to a Four-Year College or University


Recommendation 1: Research prospective four–year college and universities’ admission requirements, deadlines, costs, and degree/major options.  


      There exist a plethora of options for transfer students wishing to complete their bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution.  Each college or university will have their own admission requirements, admissions application, and application deadlines.  While many colleges and universities have similar majors of study or degree options, every institution will have their own, unique degree plan for these majors or degree options.  Before applying to a college or university, students should use university websites to examine whether their intended major or program of study is offered and whether students will meet the general admission requirements of the university.  Students should also determine if they are likely to fulfill the specific admission requirements of their intended program of study.  Moreover, students should inform themselves of what information or documents will be needed to complete a transfer admissions application and  the deadline to submit the transfer application.

College Counselor speaking with transfer student

Image Citation: "Snead State College Transfer Day, 01252011 09" by Larry Miller is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

      Even though students can likely find funding for their education costs through financial aid or scholarships, cost can be a significant factor for many students.  When considering the cost of education, transfer students should not only investigate tuition costs, but also mandatory student fees and instructional materials costs such as textbooks and equipment.  Students should further research whether or not students are required to live on campus for a certain period of time, as this will affect another major expense–room and board costs.  Most financial information should be readily available online through the institution’s website, but transfer students can also directly contact an institution’s admissions office and financial aid office for further support.


Recommendation 2: Meet with an advisor at both the community college and the four-year institutions in which you are interested in transferring.


      While the process to transfer to a four-year institution often goes smoothly once initiated, transferring can initially appear a daunting task. In order to make the process less intimidating, it is advised that students meet with an academic advisor at their community college and an academic advisor at their prospective four-year institution.  First, students should meet with their academic advisor at their community college to verify that they have completed all requirements to complete their associate’s degree.  If students choose to transfer to a four-year institution without completing their associate’s degree, students can still meet with their community college advisor to determine if they have completed all possible coursework that would be eligible to transfer to their intended four-year college or university.  In general, community college courses are less expensive per credit hour than university courses, so it can make economic sense to take as many courses as possible at a community college, as long as these courses will transfer to the four-year institution where students will eventually finish their bachelor’s degree.   

      Next, students can meet with an academic advisor at their prospective university who is assigned to an academic major in which students are considering.  The advisor can confirm which community college courses will transfer to the four-year institution.  Although the community college advisor may have already answered some of these questions, it is important to confirm with university officials, themselves.  Furthermore, if transfer students meet with their future academic advisors that they will have at their four-year institution, students can learn more about potential majors of study that they might pursue and can create a preliminary degree plan to plan their future coursework at the university. 


 Recommendation #3: Take a tour of the institutions in which you are considering for transfer.


      Each college or university has its own unique campus culture, campus environment, and amenities.  Participating in an official tour of campus and taking the time to interact with current students can help a transfer student determine if an institution is a good fit for their personality, interests, and needs.  Students should consider whether they can “see themselves” as a successful student in an institution.  Students should reflect on whether they would feel comfortable attending classes, interacting with their peers, and participating in campus social activities.


Recommendation #4: Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships


Small Piggy Banks

Image Citation: "Financial aid awareness fair 2017 (67 of 101)" by MDC-EPC is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


      Although a four-year degree is often a very good  investment in one’s future, completing a four-year degree can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Fortunately, most students will qualify for some form of financial aid.  Financial aid can include loans (which students will have to pay back after graduating) or grants (which students will not be required to pay back as long as they fulfill the institution’s enrollment requirements).  The first step to learning about the possible financial assistance that one may receive is to complete the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( 

      When students complete the FAFSA, they will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which summarizes the financial information that students provided.  Also, completing a FAFSA application will inform students of their Expected Family Contribution (EFC), or the amount that a student’s family would be expected to contribute to higher education costs for that year.  The EFC is calculated based on a student’s income if they file their taxes independently from their parents or based on a student’s family income (if students are dependents of one or more of their parents on federal tax forms). 

      While filling out the FAFSA, students can elect to send their FAFSA results to the colleges in which they are considering for transfer.  Once students are accepted to a college or university, the college or university will take students’ FAFSA results, including their EFC, and create an individual financial aid offer, or award letter, for each student.  Once officially enrolled in classes, students can choose to accept or decline part or all of their financial aid award.  Students who need additional help with the financial aid application process should contact their prospective institution’s financial aid office or read some of the help articles on the Federal Student Aid website (  (“2021-2022 Federal Student Aid Handbook,” 2022).

"It's time to file your FAFSA" Reminder Note


Image Citation:  "It's time to file your FAFSA and Villa's Office of Financial Aid can help. File early to determine if you qualify for FAFSA-based scholarships; make an appointment today! Call 716-961-1850." by Villa Maria College is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


       In addition to financial aid, students can also receive financial funds for college through earning scholarships.   Similar to grants, scholarships are financial awards that do not have to be repaid after students successfully complete their studies.  Students can earn scholarships from their prospective college or university or from private sources such as companies or community organizations. Most institutions have an official scholarship application which transfer students can complete to apply for institutional scholarships.  Often, the scholarship application will need to be completed each academic year that the student plans to attend college.  Similar to an institution’s application for admission, scholarship applications normally have a deadline or priority deadline to apply.  If students are awarded a scholarship, it is important that they pay attention to whether or not the scholarship can be renewed in future semesters or years, and if so, the specific renewal requirements.  Renewal requirements likely include the student  maintaining a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA).  

      Most colleges and institutions either have their own scholarship office or a scholarship department connected to the institution’s financial aid office.   Scholarship advisors or counselors who work for these entities can provide students with excellent information about available scholarships and the scholarship application process.  In fact, many colleges and universities have scholarship funds specifically designated for transfer students.  Thus, taking a few minutes to learn more about possible scholarships could yield significant financial rewards.  


Recommendation #5:  Research  student organizations on campus that you find interesting and contact officers of those organizations.  


      Student organizations can provide students with a campus community and socialization opportunities.  Many student organizations help link students to particular industries or careers.  Other organizations offer academic support, mentorship opportunities, and leadership development.  In the college learning environment, students spend a significant portion of their time outside of the classroom studying, working, and engaging in social activities. For this reason, transfer students can benefit from identifying possible campus student organizations which they can join.  Most colleges and universities have an office that particularly manages and supports student organizations on campus.  Transfer students can contact these offices or individual student organizations, directly, for additional information about student organizations’ membership criteria, activities, and meeting times.  


Recommendation #6: Explore Student Resources on Campus


      Colleges and universities offer a variety of student resources and service centers to support student success.  Some of the most visible resources–libraries, computer labs, fitness centers, and recreational fields–occupy prominent spaces on campus and provide areas for students to study, socialize, and engage in physical activity. 

       Other student resources focus on supporting students’ academic success.  These resource centers may include tutoring centers where students can receive free tutoring in particular classes or disciplines. Writing centers offer valuable services to students such as writing organizational support, editing and feedback, and specific training on topics such as grammar, academic writing conventions, and citation standards.   

       Meanwhile, some student resource centers fulfill social service functions such as campus health centers, campus employment services, student food pantries, and campus-based day-care centers.  In addition, colleges and universities have student service groups that assist particular student populations such as non-traditional students, first-generation college students, veterans, students with learning and physical exceptionalities, and LGBTQIA+ students.  If transfer students believe that some of these campus-based student resource centers and groups can support their academic, social, or career success, students should not hesitate to contact campus staff who work in these student resource areas.  


Student meeting with writing tutor at writing center

Image Citation: "Writing Center" by college.library is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Required Steps to Transfer to a Four-Year Institution


Required Step 1:  Acquire your official community college transcript.

       A transcript is a document issued by a college or university that contains information concerning the dates and the courses in which a student was enrolled.  The transcript lists the grades that a student received in each course, and the student’s accumulated credits. A transcript also includes grade point average (GPA) and any completed degrees or certificates.  Transcripts are organized chronologically with the courses in which the student enrolled listed by year and semester.  Official transcripts have been signed or stamped by a college or university official, indicating that they have been approved by the institution.  Generally, a college or university’s office of the registrar is in charge of issuing and authenticating transcripts. Depending on the college or university, students may need to pay a small fee for their transcript to be printed by their institutions’ registrar office.  Transfer students need a transcript to apply to a four-year college or university, as the four-year institution will use the transcript to determine if a student meets the admission criteria of the institution.  The transcript will further help the institution determine which courses will transfer to the student’s degree plan.


Required Step 2:  Complete any prerequisite admission requirements.

       Depending on the college or university, prospective students may need to complete prerequisite standardized admission tests, admission essays, or coursework before being able to enroll in the four-year institution. Transfer students can contact a college or university’s admissions office to find out the specific details of any prerequisite admissions requirements that they will need to complete before applying to the institution.


Required Step 3:  Submit a completed application for admissions before the admissions deadline. 

       While some colleges or universities have rolling admissions, meaning that students can apply whenever they would like and begin classes shortly after earning admission, most colleges or universities have specific admission deadlines.  Admission deadlines provide the final date and time that a person can submit their application for admissions and, upon admission, still be eligible to start classes during an upcoming semester. Because it takes time for institutions to process admissions documents and make admissions decisions, institutions often make a final admission deadline months before accepted students can begin their coursework.  For example, depending on the college or university, students interested in beginning coursework in the fall semester may have to apply up to 9 months earlier in order to be eligible to start during that semester.  Some institutions even have early action or priority application deadlines, which allow applicants who apply earlier than the final admissions date to receive expedited notification of their admissions result.  For some institutions, it is even advantageous to apply for early admission or priority admission, as students who apply earlier than the final deadline are more likely to be accepted.  Information on application processes, deadlines, and requirements is often prominently displayed on institutions’ websites.  Institutions’ admissions offices can also provide this information.  One should note that an application may require supplementary documents such as official transcripts, essays, or recommendation letters.  Thus, it is advisable to start the admissions process several months before the final admissions deadline.  


College Admissions Office

Image Citation: "Emma Willard House (1809) – Office of Admissions entry" by origamidon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Required Step 4: Complete any mandatory advising meetings and register for classes.

       Many colleges or institutions will require new students such as transfer students to meet with an academic advisor to help develop a degree plan.  Academic advisors can help answer many questions that transfer students have such as what courses will transfer to the four-year institution, what degree and major options are available, what courses students will need to complete to fulfill their degree requirements, and when these courses will be offered.  After meeting with an academic advisor, transfer students will receive approval to register for classes for an upcoming semester.  Students should make sure that they register for classes before any registration deadlines for a given semester.  Also, since space can be limited, the earlier that students register for classes, the greater the likelihood that they will be able to enroll in their preferred classes.  


Required Step 5: Arrange for payment of classes and any mandatory student fees.

       Once students are registered for classes, they will need to pay in advance for their classes in order to reserve their place in the class.  If students have received financial aid or scholarships, the funds from those awards may already be credited to students’ accounts.  If students are unsure if their financial aid or scholarship funds have already been applied to their financial accounts, students can contact the financial aid department and/or the scholarship department for confirmation.  Most institutions have either a bursar’s office or a business office that is in charge of issuing and collecting students’ tuition funds and fees.  For students or families who are paying for their classes rather than using financial aid or scholarships, the bursar’s office or business office will often have the option for using a payment plan which spreads out payments over a period of time, rather than requiring all funds to be paid in full at the beginning of the semester.  

       One thing that students will note on their student bill is that students will be charged tuition, or the cost of classes determined by the number of classes or credit hours that a student takes, and will likely also be charged additional mandatory student fees.  The mandatory fees that students pay help fund student organizations on campus, recreation and activity centers, student health centers, libraries, free tutoring services, and other services and infrastructure projects on campus.  Since students are required to pay these mandatory student fees, students should feel encouraged to take advantage of these campus amenities and services.  This way, students can “get what they paid for.”


Required Step 6:  Obtain a syllabus for each course and any required textbooks or course materials.

       As discussed in Chapter 1, each college course follows a syllabus which provides students with course objectives, required materials and textbooks needed for the course, a list of major assignments, and a course calendar.  Syllabi are generally made available to students a few days before the start of the class.  If students have not received a syllabus by the first day of class, they should request a syllabus from each of their professors.  Moreover, since students will be completing many of their higher level or advanced courses at four-year institutions, university students should make a concerted effort to acquire any mandatory materials or textbooks for their classes.  This will increase the likelihood of success in students’ advanced courses, as these courses will likely require the close reading of assigned texts and significant time dedicated to completing course assignments.  Fortunately, many textbooks are available for free through college or university libraries or as Open Educational Resources online (OER) (such as this textbook).  Students can also find used textbooks or older editions of textbooks at a fraction of the cost online, which likely are very similar to the most recent edition of the text.

Students meeting with professor around a round table

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Required Step 7: Participate in Classes

       Regular attendance and participation in classes helps to improve the likelihood of student success in college.  Since students will largely take their most advanced and rigorous coursework when they transfer to a four-year college or university, students should especially be mindful of taking advantage of all opportunities for support and guidance.  Class participation provides students with much of this support and guidance, as students who regularly attend and participate in class will receive the information that they will need to be successful in the course.  Students will benefit from listening to the explanations that their professors provide concerning the academic material.  Moreover, students will develop a better understanding of the material if they discuss the course material with classmates during classroom-based activities.  



       The chapter offered readers practical information on career exploration, goal-setting, and academic planning.  Specifically, the chapter provided tangible steps for identifying and researching future careers, while also suggesting external resources for career exploration from the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training.  From reading the chapter, students learned how to create effective, career-related, SMART goals that were specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.  In addition, students acquired knowledge of how to create an academic plan, including the selection of an academic major or certificate of study.  As many readers plan to transfer from their current community colleges to four-year colleges and universities, the chapter offered recommendations for the transfer process.  Finally, the chapter concluded with the required steps that transfer students should complete to successfully transfer to a four-year institution of higher learning.  


Clock that says "Success"

Image Citation: "Clock - Success" by flazingo_photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.




Farr, & Shatkin, L. (2005). New Guide for Occupational Exploration, 4E [electronic resource]: Linking Interests, Learning and Careers (4th ed.). JIST Publishing.


Greco, & Kraimer, M. L. (2020). Goal-Setting in the Career Management Process: An Identity Theory Perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(1), 40–57.


Peek, S. (2020).  “How to Create Long-Term vs. Short-Term Goals.”  U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Retrieved from


Shatkin, Farr, & Farr, J. Michael. (2011). Overnight career choice : discover your ideal job in just a few hours / Laurence Shatkin, Ph.D., and Michael Farr. (2nd ed.).


"Smart Goals: A How to Guide.” (2017). University of California. Performance Appraisal Planning 2016-2017. Retrieved from



"2021-2022 Federal Student Aid Handbook.” (2022).  Federal Student Aid.  Office of the U.S. 

Department of Education. Retrieved from

Chapter 6: Managing Finances in College

Photo of Woman Looking at Piggy Bank

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       An important–albeit daunting–part of growing up is having to take greater individual responsibility for one’s finances.  While college students may have already started to consider financial matters before entering college, pursuing a college education leads to several unique financial considerations.  First, prospective college students must consider the financial advantages to pursuing and earning a college degree.  After deciding that they will pursue higher education, college students must decide how they will pay for their education and living expenses.  Furthermore, college students must develop a plan for managing their finances while in college and elect whether to work while pursuing coursework.

       The following chapter provides an overview of several key topics concerning financial planning during college.  The chapter begins with an explanation of the many monetary advantages of pursuing a college degree.  Next, the chapter discusses ways students may choose to finance their education through forms of financial aid and scholarships.  Since students will need to know how to store and secure the money that they use during college, the third topic mentioned in this chapter is how to open a bank account.  The latter sections of the chapter then delve into financial considerations that students will need to make.  These portions discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working during college, tax obligations while in college, and credit responsibility.  As such, the following chapter intends to provide college students with an important financial foundation that will support students during their college studies and beyond. 

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College as a Financial Investment in your Future

       Higher education is certainly an investment in one’s future, and in financial terms, pursuing higher education after completing high school is a rewarding choice.  U.S. adults with associate’s degrees earn approximately $10,000 dollars per year more than adults who only have a high school education.  Bachelor’s degree holders earn approximately $25,000 more per year on average than high school graduates who did not choose to pursue higher education.  Indeed, by the time college graduates are in their early 30’s, the investment in a college education has paid for itself.  The increase in earnings of college graduates compared to high school graduates proves so large that even after spending up to 4 years out of the labor force and after paying college tuition, fees, room and board, the average college graduate has earned more than a high school graduate without any college education by the age of 33 (Ma et al., 2019).  In terms of lifetime earnings, men with a bachelor’s degree earn more than $900,000 than men who only obtained a high-school education.  Women who hold a bachelor’s degree earn $600,000 more over the span of their lifetime than women whose highest level of education is high school (Social Security Administration, 2015).  As the reader can see, pursuing higher education often leads to substantial financial benefits. 

       Nevertheless, college can be an expensive endeavor.  The average annual cost for tuition and fees to attend a public community college in the U.S. is $3,900 per year, while the average cost to attend a public four-year college or university is $9,400.  If students choose to attend private colleges or universities, the cost on average will be at least double that amount (private, non-profit universities cost the most per year, averaging $37,600 annually in tuition and fees)  (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022).  For this reason, the next section of the chapter will discuss the financial aid options available for students to help fund their education. 


Financial Aid


          Chapter 5 provided an overview of how to apply for financial aid and the financial aid process.  The present chapter will review the different forms of financial aid, how to evaluate financial aid options, and the impact financial aid decisions can make on students’ future lives after college.


Forms of Financial Aid

           As detailed previously in Chapter 5 of this textbook, the first step that students should take to start the financial aid process is to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA (  Chapter 5 offers information concerning the components of the FAFSA and what students will need to complete the application.

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       The reader may also remember from reading Chapter 5 of this text that financial aid for college can come in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans.  Each of these types will be described more comprehensively in the following section.  Another form of financial aid, work study awards, will also be introduced in this chapter. 


Grants and Scholarships

            In general, grants and scholarships are forms of financial aid that students do not have to repay.  Grants are commonly distributed to students based on students’ demonstrated financial need.  Some colleges and universities offer grants as a form of financial aid.  Another common example of a grant, a Pell Grant, is awarded by the federal government. Undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial need on the FAFSA may qualify for a Federal Pell Grant if they have not completed a bachelor’s degree.  Unlike grants that are issued by colleges or universities, Federal Pell Grants follow the student.  So, if a student decides to transfer to another institution, the student can use their Pell grant funds at their new undergraduate institution, if they can still demonstrate exceptional financial need (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2021; Federal Student Aid, 2022a).

            Scholarships are awarded to students at least partially according to merit (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2021).  Colleges, universities, state governments, national corporations, and non-profit organizations award scholarships to students based on a criterion that likely considers at least one or more of the following: students’ high school or community college GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular participation, and/or community service.  Some scholarships also consider students’ financial need as one of the criteria, while other scholarships are solely merit-based.



            Loans, like the name implies, are funds that the student borrows from another entity to finance her or his education costs.  Students can receive student loans from a variety of sources such as the federal government, their colleges or universities, or financial institutions such as banks or credit unions.  The amount initially borrowed for the loan is called the loan’s principal.  The additional fees for having to borrow money is called interest.  Interest is charged according to the terms of the loan. The amount of interest charged is based on the interest rate of the loan, and accrued interest is added to the principal balance of the loan.  Thus, each loan payment that a person makes goes to paying accrued interest (if applicable) and a portion of the principal balance (Treece & Tarver, 2021). 

       Apart from comparing the interest rate of various loan options, borrowers should also consider if there are any loan origination fees or other fees associated with the loan.  One way that borrowers can compare loans is to consider the annual percentage rate (APR), or the total annual cost of borrowing.  APR includes the interest charges and fees that the borrower will have to pay each year simply for taking out the loan (Treece & Tarver, 2021).

       There exist two types of student loans–federal loans and private loans. Federal loans are loans issued and guaranteed by the federal government through the Department of Education.  Private loans, on the other hand, are issued by banks, credit unions, and other private entities (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2021). 

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       Federal loans prove more advantageous to borrowers compared to private loans.  Federal loans always have a fixed interest rate that never changes throughout the life of the loan.  Moreover, students can arrange income-driven payment plans, so that their loan payments are less than a quarter of their total income.  Borrowers suffering from financial hardship who are unable to repay their federal loans can apply for a temporary reduction or postponement of their loans.  Students who work in public service fields such as in education, law enforcement, government service, and non-profit work may even qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, a program where students’ Federal Direct loans are forgiven after ten years of income-based payments on the loans (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2021; Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2022). 

       Private loans, on the other hand, do not always have a fixed interest rate. Some private loans’ interest rates will change over time and could even increase.  Private loan borrowers may or may not have the ability to defer or postpone loan payments in the case of financial hardship.  For these reasons, the U.S. Department of Education recommends that students exhaust all their federal loan options before acquiring private loans (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2021). 

       Federal loans can come in the form of Direct subsidized loans, Direct unsubsidized loans, and PLUS loans (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2021).  Since private loans can come in various forms with different loan terms based on the lender, the present chapter will only feature a detailed discussion of three federal loan types, which will be provided in Table 1.


Table 1: Description of Federal Loan Options

Loan Type


Interest Rate

Loan Fees**

Direct Subsidized Loans

-most advantageous form of student loan

-government pays interest on the loan while student is in college and up until six months after student’s graduation

-only undergraduate college students can qualify for this loan

-undergraduates must demonstrate financial need to qualify for this type of loan

-college students take out loan in their own name (they are the borrower rather than their parents)



Direct Unsubsidized Loans

-available for undergraduate students and graduate students

-interest accrues from the life of the loan, including while student is in college

-students take out loan in their own name (they are the borrower rather than their parents)

4.99% for undergraduates


6.54% for graduate students


PLUS loans

-undergraduate students cannot take out a loan in their own name (must have parents take out a loan)

-parents of financially dependent, undergraduate students can take out a loan to pay for their dependent children’s college costs (often referred to as “parent PLUS loans”)

-graduate or professional students can take out a loan in their own name (these are often referred to as “grad PLUS loans”)

-borrower does not have to demonstrate financial need to qualify for PLUS loans.

-borrower must undergo a credit check to qualify for the loan; some potential borrowers with an adverse credit history will be unable to receive PLUS loans.



*Current interest rates and fees as of September 23, 2022.  Borrowers should verify current interest rates when taking out loans, as the interest rates could change.

**for newly originated loans; deducted from loan during each loan disbursement

Sources for Table 1: (Federal Student Aid., 2022b; Federal Student Aid, 2022e)


Work Study

            Federal Work-Study is a program that offers part-time employment to both undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need.  Similar to loans and grants, students qualify for work-study based on demonstrating financial need on their completed FAFSA applications.  Work-study jobs include on-campus or off-campus jobs that serve the public interest.  Indeed, work-study jobs intend to foster community service and students gaining experience in a position relevant to their major.  On-campus work-study jobs are often provided by students’ colleges or universities.  Off-campus work-study positions are jobs at public agencies or nonprofit organizations (Federal Student Aid, 2022c).

 As a former recipient of work-study funds, the textbook’s author recommends that students who are considering working while in school first investigate work-study positions before looking for non-work-study positions in private industry.  From the author’s own experience, work-study jobs may be especially convenient for students since students can work on-campus, and university employers will likely work with students’ class schedules.  Also, students may be able to find a work-study job that directly relates to their academic major or professional interests by working for professors as research assistants or for academic departments in roles such as teaching assistants, peer tutors, or office staff. 


Opening a Bank Account

      The money that students receive from scholarships, student loans, working, or from family members should be stored with a bank in a banking account such as a checking account or a savings account.  There are many advantages to opening a bank account. 


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       First, bank accounts are safe places to store money.  Money is deposited in a banking institution which ensures that the money is physically protected from theft, fires, and other forms of physical damage.  Moreover, money stored in a federally insured bank or credit union is backed by the federal government.  Specifically, money stored in a federally insured savings account that is backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is guaranteed up to $250,000 if the bank or credit union goes out of business or if the bank cannot provide the funds available in the account (Westchester County, 2022a). 

       Second, bank accounts are very convenient.  A person can use checks or a debit card linked to their bank account to make purchases or pay bills.  Most bank accounts also offer online bill pay. With a debit card that is linked to their bank account, a person can instantly withdraw money from an ATM or a bank branch.  Individuals who work for a company can have their paychecks automatically deposited in their bank account through direct deposit.  In short, having a debit card is just as convenient as having cash or paying with a money order (Westchester County, 2022a). 

       Third, having a bank account saves money when making large financial transactions.  With a bank account, a person can pay bills such as rent and utilities directly with their bank account information without having to purchase a separate money order that charges additional fees.  Similarly, a person can deposit large checks in their bank account for free, bypassing the need to pay check-cashing fees.  If you need to wire or transfer money to another person, banks will charge a flat fee which is significantly cheaper than fees charged by money wiring companies.  Furthermore, withdrawing cash from a bank account is free, but withdrawing cash from a credit card can lead to substantial fees (Westchester County, 2022a). 

            Fourth, bank accounts provide opportunities to save money and earn interest.  Money stored in saving accounts, a form of bank account, earns interest, or additional money, from the bank.  Money saved in a savings account can also easily be transferred to a checking account to make purchases if needed (Westchester County, 2022a). Thus, bank accounts offer account holders the opportunity to save money and accumulate interest while still having cash on hand for the account holder to withdraw if necessary.

            Finally, establishing a bank account provides account holders with greater access to credit, or borrowed money.  Banks are more likely to offer loans to existing customers, and the interest rates on loans that banks offer are, generally, much lower than the interest rates of small companies that offer quick cash loans (Westchester County, 2022a).  While some small loan companies might offer short-term Payday loans or Title loans that quickly provide cash on hand, these loans are often predatory loans that charge exorbitant interest rates and fees.  In fact, the interest rates and fees can lead the borrower to be required to pay back to the lender twice or three times what they originally borrowed in interest payments, alone (Federal Trade Commission, 2021). 


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            There are two main forms of bank accounts–checking accounts and savings accounts.  A checking account is a form of bank account in which a person can withdraw money from their account at any time without penalty.  People can deposit money in their checking account with a bank, and the bank will safely store the money.  When needed, a person can immediately withdraw funds from their checking account at either a bank location or at an ATM.  Banks often issue a debit card that allows checking account holders to make purchases without having to have physical cash on hand.  A person can simply swipe their debit card to make a purchase, and the money is electronically deducted from the person’s checking account, usually within a few minutes of making the purchase.  In general, stores do not charge additional fees for using a debit card.  Checking accounts sometimes require the account holder to maintain a minimum balance; otherwise, the account holder may receive a small, monthly fee from the bank for securing money in the checking account (DeMatteo, 2020). Fortunately, for many college students, banks will have a very low minimum balance requirement and will often waive fees.  In fact, several banks offer incentives for students to open checking accounts with their bank, offering sign-up bonuses or “cash-back” rewards on debit card purchases for students (Gran, 2020). 

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            Savings accounts are another form of a bank account that are used to store money that a person will not immediately use for an extended period such as a few months or years.  Savings accounts are normally free to open for students.  In fact, banks will actually “pay” students to save money in their savings account in the form of interest payments.  The money stored in savings accounts earns interest, which helps the balance in the savings account grow over time.  If a person opens a savings account with the same bank that they have a checking account, she or he can transfer money between the two accounts.  Most banks now allow account holders to transfer money online or in person.  Some banks, however, limit the number of times per month that account holders can transfer or withdraw money from their savings accounts.  If students stay within the savings transfer and withdrawal limits specified by their bank, they should not be charged fees for the limited number of times that they transfer money or withdraw money from their savings account (DeMatteo, 2020).  Similar to checking accounts, many banks will offer incentives for opening a savings account. College students may even receive additional incentives which are unavailable to the general public (Gran, 2020). 

       Students who open a checking account or savings account should educate themselves on the requirements of each account.  Students should compare the incentives, benefits, and fees for each account and select a banking institution that best meets their unique needs.  Often, a good banking option is a bank that has local ATMs or bank branches that are affiliated with the bank, so that a person can withdraw or deposit cash without having to incur any fees (Gran, 2020).  Another factor that students should consider when choosing a bank account is whether the new bank account can be linked to other accounts from other banking institutions.  Similarly, students should ensure that the bank account that they create can be used to pay bills and pay for goods and services.  The level of personalized customer service offered to bank account holders should also be a consideration for students when “shopping around” for a bank (Westchester County, 2022b). 

       Bank accounts, such as checking accounts and savings accounts, are easy to open.  A person can apply online for online bank accounts or in person in a brick-and-mortar bank.  Applicants will need to complete a short bank account application that asks applicants to provide some personal information like their name, address, and contact information. Applicants will also have to provide the bank with a government-issued identification card such as a driver’s license or passport.  Then, applicants will sign forms indicating that they agree to follow the rules of the bank.  After this, the applicant will now be a bank account holder.  Depending on the type of account, the account holder may need to make an initial deposit in their account to maintain the account, although some “free” checking accounts may not require an initial deposit.  Finally, the new account holders will receive welcome information, which can include additional information about the account and account benefits, complimentary checks for a checking account, a debit card or bank card, and a temporary Personal Identification Number (PIN) number to use with the debit card or bank card.  The account holder should change the PIN number either online or at the branch, so that the PIN number is unique, and its identity is only known by the account holder (Westchester County, 2022b). 



            Apart from paying tuition and fees, college students also need to consider expenses such as textbooks and course supplies, room and board, and other living expenses.  One should note that a young adult would still be paying for room and board and other living expenses such as transportation, entertainment, laundry, and furnishings, even if they were not attending college.  Nevertheless, it is important to take into consideration each of these expenses when creating a budget. 

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            Students at two-year community colleges and technical schools pay on average $1,465 for books and other course materials per year.  Students at four-year institutions pay slightly less–$1,230 per year.  In terms of room, board, and other expenses, the breakdown of costs depending on living arrangements can be seen in Table 2.  While there is not too much of a difference in living expenses for students at two-year colleges compared to students at four-year colleges who live at home or off-campus, there is a significant difference between the living expenses at each of the types of higher education institutions for residing on-campus. Specifically, students who live on-campus at community colleges spend an average of $10,734 for room, board, and miscellaneous living expenses, while students at four-year institutions spend an average of $15,305 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021).


Table 2: Average Costs of Living Expenses (Room, Board, Transportation, Entertainment, Furnishings, Laundry) According to Institution and Living Arrangement


Type of Institution

Living at Home

Living Off-Campus (independent from family)

Living On-Campus

2-year institutions




4-year institutions




Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2021)


            Regardless of what living arrangement college students elect, students would be wise to develop a budget for their living expenses.  A budget encourages students to monitor their income, expenses, and savings so that they can make informed spending choices that correspond with their financial objectives.  When creating an initial budget, students should consider the income that they will receive (whether it be through financial aid, family support, or working) and their expenses (both expected and unexpected).  The U.S. Department of Education (2022) recommends that students underestimate the amount of income that they will receive each month and overestimate what they will spend each month.  This way, students will be more likely to have an unexpected surplus of funds rather than a budget shortfall.  Furthermore, students should consult with their family when developing their budget. Students should consider the specific amount of financial support that they can expect from their family and family members’ role in the financial planning process (Federal Student Aid, 2022d). 

       Some income in the budget should be set aside for savings, so that students will have an adequate emergency fund in case of unexpected expenses.  An emergency fund can provide a financial cushion in case of unanticipated events such as illness, job loss, transportation issues, housing needs, etc. Likewise, an emergency fund can prove especially beneficial for college students since they will probably experience periods of financial transition.  For example, many students may move from living at home or on campus to living on their own in an off-campus apartment.  Students will need to have additional funds set aside to furnish their apartment and to provide for a rent deposit.  Students may also get an internship in college, which may or may not be paid.   Students will likely need new professional attire for the internship and may spend additional amounts of money on transportation or living expenses. If the internship is unpaid and students were previously making an income from working, students will need to have some savings to pay for their living expenses while they are working at the internship.  Similarly, when students graduate, they will need to have an emergency fund to pay for their living expenses while they search for a job and to pay for any associated job search expenses such as travel, professional certification fees, and career counseling (Federal Student Aid, 2022d). 

            The amount of money that college students should save for their emergency fund may depend on each individual student’s situation.  If a college student’s parents are paying for all the student’s living expenses, the student will not need a huge emergency fund.  In this case, the student may be only using the emergency fund to not have to ask her or his parents for money to cover an embarrassing expense such as a parking ticket.  On the other hand, students who are completely self-supporting and financially independent from their parents would need significantly more savings stored away in case of unforeseen circumstances.  An often-cited rule of thumb for college students is to set aside $100-$500 in case of emergencies (Austin Community College District, 2022; Carlton, 2021; Kumok, 2021). 

         If students are completely self-supporting, they may choose to save significantly more.  Traditionally, many financial experts recommended that households save enough money in an emergency fund to pay for three to six months of expenses (Elkins, 2019; Kantrowitz, 2019; VanSomeren, 2022).  This would allow for households to deal with periods of unemployment which, on average, last approximately five months (Kantrowitz, 2019).  Other economists argue that statistically-speaking, low-earning households that save $2,467 are much less likely to suffer severe financial difficulties (Elkins, 2019). 

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       While debate exists among financial authorities concerning the exact amount that college students should have in their emergency fund, there is consensus among financial experts that some savings is better than no savings.  Experts contend that students should allocate a portion of the money that they receive each month (from financial aid, family support, and/or working) to savings.  If possible, a good percentage for people to save is 20% of the monthly money or income that they receive.  If a student cannot set aside 20% each month to savings, even small amounts of money such as $20 per month can make a significant impact in reducing the likelihood that students will experience financial strain (Carlton, 2021; Kumok, 2021; Wolfson, 2022). 

       In addition to creating and contributing to an emergency fund, college students should write down all their expenses in a notebook, cell phone app, or computer spreadsheet.  Students must ensure that they are noting all their actual expenses, even small expenses such as a cup of coffee, cell phone app fees, or movie ticket purchases. Likewise, students should consider the cumulative effects of small, daily purchases.  Purchasing a $3 cup of coffee and eating a $10 lunch out each day can add up to $400 a month or nearly $5,000 each year.  If a person brews their own coffee and prepares a home-made lunch, a person can save at least half of that money that would otherwise be spent in outside food and beverage purchases (Federal Student Aid, 2022d).

       It is imperative that students organize their budget records in an easily accessible and readable format.  Establishing a regular routine to review one’s budget is also necessary.  If a person does not review her or his budget every week or two weeks, the person may forget or lose track of expenses, or may realize too late when expenses become more than expected.  Within a budget, students should maintain categories for types of expenses, allocating a particular amount per category.  When doing this, students would be wise to establish an “unusual” category that takes into consideration miscellaneous expenses that may not apply to only one category (Federal Student Aid, 2022d). 

       Credit cards can be a tempting method of paying for items, especially if credit cards offer purchasing offers like cash back or frequent flier miles.  However, many people end up accumulating a balance on credit card accounts, and credit cards often have very high interest rates (10-30% annual percentage rate) compared to other types of loans such as student loans.  Interest charged for maintaining a statement balance for one or two months can quickly add up to much more than any short-term promotional awards or introductory offers provided by credit card companies.   If one decides to acquire a credit card, she or he should only spend as much as they can pay off in one month.  Before each monthly credit card statement, students should pay off their remaining credit card balance to not accumulate interest and/or late payment fees which can be excessive, wreaking havoc on an otherwise well-designed budget (Federal Student Aid, 2022d). 

       While preparing your own meals and beverages can save a significant amount of money each month, there are other strategies to save money that can easily be adopted.  First, before making any significant purchases, students can comparison shop by checking the prices of an item at several stores.  Coupons and/or coupon codes can help save students money, especially on large purchases.  Fortunately, there are cell phone apps and/or websites that can quickly comparison shop and apply coupon codes for students, saving students valuable time and money.  Other ways to save money can include carpooling, bicycling or walking rather than driving a car, or hosting potluck dinners or parties with friends rather than eating at restaurants or going to bars.  Students can also save money by growing their own produce in community gardens or through buying gently used items, such as textbooks, furniture, or clothes instead of purchasing new. 

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Working during College

            Many college students may choose (or need) to work while they are going to school.  With the increasing cost of a college education, students may feel more obligated to work to help pay for their schooling and living expenses. Indeed, research indicates that higher tuition rates at two-year colleges correlate with students working more hours while going to school (Kalenkoski et al., 2010). 

            Working can provide students with valuable real-world experience, future job connections and resources, marketable skills, and, of course, financial rewards.  However, students must also consider how working while going to school may affect their academics and social experiences in college.  Significant research has been conducted on the effects of working on college students’ academic performance.  A debate exists whether working part-time a few hours per week while in college harms or helps a person’s academic performance. 

       Several studies conclude that working hurts college students’ grades (Stinebrickner & Stinebrickner, 2003; Wenz & Yu, 2010).  On the other hand, other researchers, Kalenkoski & Wulff Pabilonia (2010) found that students at 2-year colleges who worked saw gains in their academic performance overall, while four-year college students who worked less than 20 hours per week had higher GPAs than students who did not work at all.  Wenz & Yu (2010) documented that students who make the personal choice to work (as opposed to feeling obligated to work) earn higher GPAs compared to students who chose not to work (it is important to note that Wenz & Yu also found that each additional hour worked led to small decreases in GPA on average).  

While findings are mixed concerning working as a student or refraining from working, overall, a consensus in the research indicates that working too many hours per week can lead to negative academic outcomes for students.  The exact number of hours that become “too many hours worked” for students varies across studies.  Some research indicates that working more than 12 hours per week leads to lower GPAs and academic performance (Wolff et al., 2014).  Other research cites that students may be able to work a slightly higher amount-up to 16 hours (Rochford & Drennan, 2009) or up to 20 hours (Jach & Trolian, 2020; Kalenkoski & Wulff Pabilonia, 2010; Logan et al., 2016) per week without seeing any negative effects on their academics. 

       As can be readily seen, students should not make the decision to work while in college lightly.  Students should take into consideration the time commitments that they will need to devote to their academics.  As stated earlier, working a few hours per week, part-time, may prove to be a beneficial experience for students.  However, working more than 12 hours per week may cause students to see declines in their academic performance and to feel increasing amounts of stress.  If students choose to work, it is recommended that students find a job on campus that is related to their major and/or their desired career, as these types of work experiences may lead to students feeling increased connection between their student employment and their academics, while leading to relatively less negative outcomes compared to working off-campus (Wenz & Yu, 2010 (Halper et al., 2020). 

Paying Taxes

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       Taxes, or money owed to the government, is another financial matter that affects college students and their families in various ways.  Some working students may need to file a yearly tax return.  A student who earned an income during the previous tax year may even be eligible to receive a refund on some or all the income tax that had been withheld from the student’s paycheck.  In some special situations, students may need to pay taxes on grants or scholarships that they receive.  On the positive side, significant tax benefits exist for college students and their families, which may lead to drastic deductions in students’ or parents’ tax obligations.  The following section will explain each of these situations and provide a general overview of tax-related information that students should know.  While significant effort was made to provide the most accurate and detailed information possible, information in this section does not replace the need for students to seek the advice of a tax professional or certified accountant.  Fortunately, most students will qualify for free or subsidized tax preparation assistance due to their income level, and this optional service will, likewise, be detailed below.

       To begin, many college students who are primarily supported by their parents will not need to file their own taxes; instead, their parents can list the students as dependents on the parents’ tax forms.  In order for a student to be considered a dependent for tax purposes, the student must be under the age of 24 at the end of the tax filing year, be a full-time student, and receive more than half of their financial support from their parents (Internal Revenue Service, 2021; Lankford, 2022). 

          On the other hand, some college students should file their own tax return.  Self-supporting college students who pay for more than half of their own expenses will need to file their own tax form independently from their parents. Likewise, college students who earn more than $12,550 in income from an employer during the previous tax year will need to file their own tax form.  Students can verify how much income that they made over the year by looking at the W-2 tax form that they receive from their employer.   Employers must provide employees a W-2 by January 31st, or approximately two and a half months before taxes are due on April 15th. Some students who work in the gig economy or in contract-based jobs such as tutoring or rideshare driving may receive a 1099-MISC or 1099-K instead of a W-2 form (Internal Revenue Service, 2021; Internal Revenue Service, 2022c; Lankford, 2022).

       Similarly, college students who earn more than $1,100 in income from either unemployment payments, investment income, or income received as a beneficiary of a retirement plan will need to file independently from their parents.  This income will be documented on 1099 forms such as a 1099-INT form for interest payments. College students who earn more than $400 in self-employment income will, similarly, need to file independently.  Some college students who earned less than $12,550 during the previous tax year may still choose to file their own taxes if state or federal income tax was withheld from students’ paychecks.  In this case, it may be possible for a full-time college student earning less than $12,550 per year to receive a tax refund for the income tax that was withheld from the student’s paycheck while also qualifying as a dependent on the parents’ tax forms (Internal Revenue Service, 2021; Internal Revenue Service, 2022c; Lankford, 2022).

Image of Monopoly Piece Landing on "Income Tax" Square

  Image Citation: "Tax" by Images_of_Money is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


       In general, college students will not need to pay taxes on scholarships or grants that they receive.  Students who are candidates for a degree at an eligible educational institution will be exempt from paying taxes on scholarship or grant funds if the following conditions are met:

1.The funds from the scholarship or grant do not exceed a students’ qualified educational expenses for attending their given higher education institution.


2. Students did not receive the scholarship or grant from their college or university as a form of payment for research, teaching or other services.


3. The funds can be used for qualified educational expenses and are not specified to be used only for types of expenses such as room and board expenses.


          Students who decide to file their own taxes can qualify for free tax return preparation if they earn $58,000 or less per year.  The service is provided by the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program (Internal Revenue Service, 2022a).  Interested individuals can learn more about the program, find a nearby location that offers the assistance, and review what documents to bring to an appointment by exploring the following website:

          Regardless of whether a college student decides to file their own taxes, college students or their parents who claim students as dependents can receive one of two tax credits.  One tax credit, the American Opportunity Credit, provides low and middle-income students or their parents a tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for qualified educational expenses during the first four years that the student attends college (Internal Revenue Service, 2022b).

        A second tax credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, offers low and middle-income students or their parents a maximum tax credit of $2,000 per year.  Unlike the American Opportunity Credit which can only be used during the first four years of college, graduate students and students who have already completed four years of college are still eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit.  Each year, a student or their family can only claim one credit, the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit (i.e., a person cannot claim both).  To claim either credit, students will need to refer to information from their 1098-T, Tuition Statement tax form, which documents students’ qualified educational expenses.  Students’ universities should provide students with their 1098-T form by January 31 each year (Internal Revenue Service, 2022b). 

       Finally, if students, former students, or their parents pay interest on college loans, they can deduct the interest from their taxable income.  Specifically, student loan borrowers can reduce their taxable income by up to $2,500 per year.  Student loan borrowers will need to have an income of $85,000 or less for single taxpayers or $170,000 or less for married taxpayers filing jointly with their spouse to be eligible to deduct the student loan interest. The amount that borrowers can deduct from their taxable income will be listed in the Form 1098-E, Student Loan Interest Statement, which student loan borrowers receive each year from their lender (Internal Revenue Service, 2022b)


Credit Responsibility

      After turning eighteen, it is important that young adults learn about credit and credit responsibility.  As will be explained in the following section, understanding credit will assist students in establishing a good credit history and credit score.  At the same time, students should also be aware of credit responsibility and the benefits of minimizing student debt/indebtedness. The following section will describe each of these concepts in detail.

Image of Scissors Cutting Credit Cards into Shreds

Image Citation: "Cutting credit cards" by giulia.forsythe is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


       To begin, credit is money that a person can borrow from a bank or credit card company, which the person will need to repay along with any associated lending fees and accrued interest connected to borrowing the money.  A person’s credit history includes the person’s past record of taking out credit and repaying money borrowed on credit.  An individual’s credit history determines their credit score.  When a person takes out a loan such as a student loan, makes a rent payment, or borrows money by using a credit card, the loan details are reported by the lender to three credit bureaus, Transunion, Experian, and Equifax.  Each bureau collects and maintains a record of individuals’ credit histories.  Each of the three credit bureaus generate a unique credit score for an individual based on the individual’s credit history.  The credit score indicates an individual’s relative credit risk, or the likelihood that the individual will pay back the borrowed money on time.  Credit scores range from 300-800.  The higher the credit score of an individual, the lower the risk that lenders associate with lending money to the individual.  Credit scores are determined by a person’s payment history, or history of making on-time payments to their loans or credit card debts.  Credit scores are also influenced by the amount of available credit that a person is utilizing, the length of a person’s credit history, the mix of credit types that person possesses, and the number of recent credit inquiries (Porter, 2019).

                College students should make prudent decisions regarding credit, as credit decisions can have lasting impacts on students’ financial futures.  A good credit score will make it more likely that a person can take out a car loan, a student loan, or an apartment lease on their own without the need of having a parent or relative co-sign the loan or lease.  When borrowing money in the form of a car loan, mortgage for the purchase of a house, or a private loan, credit scores affect the interest rate that a person can receive from the bank or lending institution.  People with good credit scores, therefore, pay lower interest rates, saving these borrowers significant money over the life of the loan (Porter, 2019).

            One way that college students can make responsible credit decisions is to refrain from borrowing excessive amounts of money for non-essential expenses. As mentioned earlier in the chapter, college students should be wary of high-interest forms of borrowing such as credit cards, Payday Loans, and Title Loans.  High-interest forms of credit can leave the borrower in a perpetual state of indebtedness.  Borrowers may accrue hefty amounts of interest, which can make their monthly payments larger than they can afford. Then, borrowers may have to take out additional credit to be able to pay for the combined burden of their monthly expenses and credit payments.  Moreover, taking out additional credit to help pay existing debt obligations can increase the percentage of available credit utilization, further hurting an individual’s credit score.

      Credit card debt, in particular, has become especially problematic for many Americans.  As of October 2022, Americans’ total credit card debt is close to $900 billion.  Almost half of Americans with credit cards have an outstanding balance on their cards.  The average balance of those with a credit card balance is $5,270.  Meanwhile, the average credit card interest rate is at 18.7%, the highest interest rate level in the past thirty years (Bhattarai, 2022). 

            Since students’ future credit score will be shaped by their timely payment of rent, student loan payments (if applicable), and other monthly debt payments, students should always pay their bills on time.  As such, students should only take out student loans that they need for essential education and living expenses.   This will cause students to have comparatively lower student loan debt, which will make it more likely that the student can afford to make student loan payments on time once they graduate.  What’s more, students who make responsible credit decisions can avoid having to postpone important financial milestones such as buying a house or getting married due to excessive indebtedness. 

Image of Woman Using Computer and Seeing Graphs of Increasing Values

Image Citation:  Tiramisu.



      After reading the current chapter, the college student has hopefully become more knowledgeable of the financial realities that they will face while in college.  The chapter explained how earning a college degree leads to significant gains in life-time income potential, despite the significant initial costs of pursuing higher education.  The chapter continued by describing the forms of financial aid that could assist students with funding their education such as loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study.  Since college students will have to keep track of substantial sums of money to pay for tuition and living costs, the chapter then detailed the benefits of opening a bank account which include security, convenience, and cost-saving.  Subsequently, readers learned of the simple process of opening a bank account. 

       The chapter included an important discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of working while in college.  In sum, working can provide students with valuable professional experience, knowledge, and connections, yet working more than part-time (more than 12-20 hours per week) leads to reduced academic outcomes for students on average.  On a related note, the chapter explained when college students would need to file their own taxes and when they could file as dependents on their parents’ tax forms.  There exist several tax breaks for those pursuing higher education, and these tax benefits were subsequently discussed.  The chapter concluded by addressing the elephant in the room-credit responsibility.  Readers learned of the importance of only borrowing the minimum amount necessary to pay for essential educational and living costs and the dangers of high-interest forms of credit such as credit cards, Payday loans, and Title loans.  Having manageable college debt payments with low interest rates will support college students’ financial well-being after college.  Not only will students have lower payments and more discretionary income, but students will be more likely to make payments on time without taking out further credit, which would support high credit scores.  Thus, the following chapter provides college students with essential financial knowledge that will support students’ immediate financial well-being as well as their future economic situation. 



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