Approaching Academic Challenges as Either Opportunities or Threats

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Abstract

Undergraduate students may approach academic challenges either as threats or as opportunities. The main aim of the present study was to determine whether students who differ in their approach would also differ in their academic performance (as measured by grades) and in their ability to evaluate their success. The ancillary aim was to assess whether individual differences would also exist in students’ emotive responses to challenges (i.e., feeling motivated versus anxious), performance awareness, beliefs in the impact of their approach on outcomes, and reactions to poor performance. The study entailed a convenience sample of undergraduate students who were enrolled in a course devoted to self-assessment of academic activities related to career goals. Findings illustrated no performance differences in mathematics, communication, and cultural competencies. Differences existed in all self-reported personal attributes. Taken together, these findings illustrate that academic challenges may motivate a student to perform irrespective of how these challenges are perceived. Nevertheless, viewing challenges as opportunities underlines a healthier adaptation to academic life.