Procrastination: How and why students do it

Procrastination: How and why students do it

Whitney Winter, Staff Writer

Have you refused to start your homework until the due date or day before since Wayne State College has transitioned to online learning? Or have you done this since the dawn of time?

If you responded yes to either of the prompted questions then you are not alone. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) and a 2007 meta-analysis by University of Calgary psychologist Piers Steel, PhD, 80-95% of college students procrastinate. A few reasons why college students procrastinate include self-doubt, fear of performing inadequately, concernment their success may raise others’ expectations of them and students believe they work best under pressure. Several studies within Steel’s meta-analysis “suggest procrastination is negatively related to overall GPA, final exam scores and assignment grades.”

According to the APA, “procrastination can also take a toll on a student’s mental health and well-being.” In a 2007 study by Florida State University psychologists Dianne M. Tice, PhD, and Roy F. Baumeister, PhD, “early in the semester, procrastinators reported lower stress and less illness than non-procrastinators, but that late in the term, procrastinators reported higher stress and more illness.”

On the contrary, Seoul National University in South Korea business professor Jin Nam, PhD, differentiated between two types of procrastinators in a 2005 study in The Journal of Social Psychology (Vol. 145, No. 3).

According to the APA “passive procrastinators, who postpone tasks until the last minute because of an inability to act in a timely manner, and active procrastinators, who prefer the time pressure and purposely decide to delay a task but are still able to complete tasks before deadlines and achieve satisfactory outcomes.”

Senior biology major, Elizabeth Osbourn, said she tells herself the following quotes while procrastinating and trying to rationalize her actions. “Ohhh it’s going to be super easy, I can sooo do it the day before!”, “I have enough time” or “I don’t want to do it!” When she tells herself the last quote she said to “picture a kid throwing a tantrum and that’s me”.

Osbourn said she will clean or go shopping if she’s really trying to procrastinate but will do anything to get out of school work. Josie Ference, a sophomore, said she does laundry, housekeeping or scrolls through social media while procrastinating. Ference is a psychology major with minors in chemistry and public and global health.

Amber Novotny, a freshman, said she tells herself, “I’m hungry. I’ll get a snack first, then I will start my homework.”

Then she proceeds to watch television or movies, play MySims or simply hang out with her family to avoid her school work. As an education K-8 major with a special education K-6 minor, she said she will start one or two days before something is due but if it’s a paper, she’ll put it off until she has a week or week and a half left until the due date. According to Novotny, she does this in case any questions may arise, she still has time to ask her professors.

When asked why she thought she procrastinates, Osbourn said “simply because I’m tired of school…definition of senioritis never leaving.”

She said she would normally start working on assignments three days before they were due but since all WSC class are all online, she has had to start her assignments a lot sooner since the course load is “crazy now”.

While Osbourn forces herself sit down and do complete her school work, Ference said she has to give herself a mental talk, “this will only take 15 minutes”.

Novotny said she usually procrastinates reading assignments and studying the most because they consume a significant portion of time and she finds studying boring (so do a lot of college students).

“I procrastinate because I like to have fun and sometimes homework can get a little boring,” Novotny said.

The APA has a list of the top 15 procrastination rationalizations. Some of these rationalizations include number two on the list, “I don’t know how to do it.” a skill deficiency and number three on the list, apathy one, “I really don’t want to do this.” Number nine on the list, fixed habit three, “I work better under pressure.”, an “appropriate” delay, number 14 on the list, “I need time to think this through.” and fixed habit one, number seven on the list, “But I’ve always done it this way and it’s hard to change.”

Are a few excuses among a never ending list in every college student’s head.

After reading these points you may be thinking, “I have a list of logical excuses to tell myself that what I am doing now [not homework] is okay because I am [insert excuse here] but I will have it done before the due date.”

“If I don’t love the task, I find that it is difficult to develop the passion and energy for it,” Ference said.

Novotny said her procrastination outcome always includes stress because she worries about not getting the assignments done in time.

“Thankfully, I have never handed in a late assignment before because I know how to manage my procrastination to a certain extent,” Novotny said. “Having a planner and writing down everything that is due for the week really helps me know how to manage my time.”

“Delay and procrastination are not the same things,” Timothy A. Pychyl, PhD, a procrastination researcher and Carleton University psychology professor, said. “Let’s not confuse deliberate, thoughtful delay of action with the lack of self-regulatory ability known as procrastination.”

“I lose a lot of sleep the day before because I’m usually up all night trying to finish it,” Osbourn said when asked what outcomes she experiences after procrastinating.

Ference said she has less time and quality overall as her outcomes.