With only a month left in the fall semester and final exams fast approaching, deadlines are becoming a daily occurrence for college students.
But with so many possible distractions, it’s almost too easy to let procrastination replace productivity.
Between 80 and 95 percent of college students procrastinate, according to the American Psychological Association.
However, Josh Wede, an associate teaching professor of psychology at Penn State, said procrastination isn’t just a problem for students — but for all people.
“I think, in general, we tend to put things off until they absolutely need to get done,” Wede said. “I think it’s just a natural drive that a lot of people have.”
Wede said students’ “challenging lives” could lead to procrastination. Certain pressures, such as extracurricular activities and jobs, make it hard for some students to prioritize their schoolwork, he said.
Wede’s “Study Smarter, Not Harder” workshop provides Penn State students with strategies to tackle school work more effectively.
“The sessions are about getting to a deeper level of understanding without necessarily putting more time in,” he said.
Getting organized, Wede said, is crucial to preventing procrastination.
“Write down assignments so you see them,” he said. “Then, you can start to see if you’re getting behind.”
Though he doesn’t specialize in the science behind procrastination, Wede said there could be many contributing factors, including anxiety or fear of failure.
According to a York University study, procrastination often stems from fear of disapproval. The study looked at college-aged individuals and found a strong link between procrastination and perfectionism.
Julie Modricker, an academic advisor in Penn State’s Department of Psychology, said procrastination can cause stress and anxiety for students. She urges students to learn time management skills and understand the consequences associated with procrastination.
“If they find success once they’ve had better time management, they’ll feel rewarded and hopefully put that habit to practice,” she said. “I tell students to plan their week, plan their semester, plan their day, breaking larger tasks into smaller pieces.”
Lauren Raemore said she procrastinates often, but she doesn’t necessarily think it’s an issue.
Raemore (senior-biology) said she’s done well in all of her classes so far by only studying three to four days in advance.
Instead of doing work, Raemore said, she’ll often hang out with friends or watch Netflix.
“If my grades were to slip or anything, then maybe I’d change,” she said. “It really just depends how you work, and I work well under stress, so in a lot of respects it probably helps me.”
In his classes, Wede collects data on students’ study tactics. For example, he surveys students to gauge when they start studying for exams.
The students who started studying two weeks before had an average exam score of 95 percent, he said. Students who studied for one week before, meanwhile, had an average score of 81 percent.
Studying for three to four days, and one to two days before, had very similar results: an average score about 71 percent, Wede said.
Interestingly enough, Wede said, the students who earned A’s didn’t study for more hours. They actually studied less but spread it out to improve their performance.
“In general, procrastination isn’t good because things come up,” he said. “If you put off writing a huge term paper until the day before it’s due, and then your car breaks down, you really put yourself in a bind.”
Think about the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing as the light at the end of this two-week tunnel.
Procrastination often has a negative impact on grades, success and student stress, Modricker said.
She said procrastination typically peaks in the middle of the semester during midterms, adding first-year students are more likely to procrastinate.
“Sometimes, the transition from high school to college can throw some [people] off,” she said. “But once they come to know how to study and manage their time the best, usually they can work things out.”
Modricker said students also tend to procrastinate during spring semester when the temperature starts to climb again.
Penn State student Sofia Bjalme said she thinks a lot of students struggle with procrastination because of their busy schedules.
"I tend to procrastinate doing my work for classes that aren’t as intense,” Bjalme (sophomore-bio behavioral health) said. "I’m involved in a few clubs, which causes me to put off some of my work until the last minute."
She said she finds it easier to focus on work that’s due sooner rather than later. Bjalme said she works more efficiently on a time crunch.
"I don’t think there is anything wrong with procrastinating,” she said. “All that matters in the end is that you turn in your work on time and hopefully get the grade you wanted."
Jordan Mansberger said he always does his work the night before it's due. Mansberger (freshman-broadcast journalism) said he knows nearly all of his friends put off their work, too.
"I tend to rush things because I wait so long to do them," Mansberger said.
He said procrastinating probably has an impact on his grades, but he doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.