Students who succeed here are reputed to too often condescend as though being successful here equates to being mentally superior to other Rose-Hulman students and especially to students of another college. But, perhaps these condescending students are right. In one respect, they might be superior. These students may have brought to the table a superior attitude of belief and dedication.
Students here at Rose-Hulman love to complain about the rigor of our courses. We typically have four challenging classes, and it always seems that something is wrong. Each class has a professor who thinks his or her course is the only one, professors are being unfair, the system is rigged against us, or the courses are just so hard that no average student among us could possibly succeed. We do work hard at Rose-Hulman, but we also do love to complain that we are working too hard against impossible odds. It is normal to banter with friends, engage in the feelings of camaraderie created by enduring similar problems, or occasionally let off a little steam, but how many of us stop to think that perhaps the problem is partially our collective attitude?
A student who gets up in the morning and immediately starts the day with a mind filled by complaints over the day that will follow is not going to perform as well as a student who starts each day as a blank slate, takes a few minutes of the morning to calm down and relieve stress in some way, or just refuses to succumb to the disappointments of less than perfect grades, small results for large efforts, or negativity from professors. This is because the attitude a student endorses towards these problems affects all the decisions he makes.
If I wake up in the morning to an alarm that I set as late as possible to get to my first class, then I’ll probably be in a hurry getting to class. I can tell myself that being a few minutes late to class once in a while doesn’t matter. I can tell myself that grabbing the wrong assignment in my rush was bound to happen every so often anyway. I can just think to myself, “The class is too early for me; I just don’t function well at that hour. I always get stuck with the earliest possible section of every class because course registration boots me out three times.” I’ve already started my day off by making excuses for something that could be fixed by setting my alarm a little earlier and telling myself that the improved performance in that first class when I’ve been awake for a few minutes and had enough time to orient myself is a worthwhile tradeoff for those minutes of precious sleep, telling myself that getting better than a zero on that one assignment is a better feeling than staring at that zero, which wasn’t even an accurate measure of my abilities as a student.
By the end of the day, I can make excuses for everything that goes wrong. I can tell myself, “That professor doesn’t teach very well… I’m not smart enough to learn this… My professor’s office hours are too inconvenient… It’s not my fault… It isn’t worth staying awake another hour... I should be somewhere else studying something easier.” I’ve told myself a few of these things; I’m sure that a lot of students here have. The problem is that a student who lets himself think those discouraging thoughts is instantly less motivated to do anything about these problems. Maybe all the professors this quarter are awful, maybe the system is rigged, and maybe success isn’t right there waiting to be grabbed. But, it is always better to look back and know that the best of efforts was put forth. Seeing a C+ and knowing it’s my best feels better than seeing a B+ and knowing it could have been an A if just one or two fewer excuses had been made and a little more effort put into not missing the first ten minutes of lecture, not taking zeros on assignments, and asking professors (even the unpleasant, condescending ones) questions.
Letting a bad attitude towards school go unchecked is just a way of feeding a cycle. The bad attitude leads to poor decisions, and those poor decisions lead to poor results. In turn, these lead right back to that bad attitude in response to the feelings of disappointment, failure, and stress. How many of us have asked ourselves what a better attitude could do for the effort put forth and what an improvement in effort could mean for grades? There is a direct connection.