The pressure to achieve has created unparalleled stress in today’s college students across America. It has also created bad habits, including cheating, plagiarizing and copying from the Internet just to make the grade. Now comes the latest response to this pressure: Adderall.
In a current CNN report, students are becoming addicted to the popular prescription drug normally prescribed for kids with attention deficit disorder — not because these students need it, or are trying to get high — but because the medication helps them “focus and pull all-nighters.” In fact, students call the highly addictive pills “study buddies” and “steroids for school.”
What do parents think of this?
Students believe their parents don’t want to know—that they are paying for the report card. But is an at-all-costs report card the bottom line for parents, even at the expense of their child’s health?
Malcolm Gauld is president of Hyde Schools, a network of public charter and prep schools in New York City, Washington DC, Connecticut and Maine that are rooted in character education. He is also the author of the new book “College Success Guaranteed: Five Rules to Make it Happen (Rowman & Littlefield, 2011).” Find book on Amazon.com | “LIKE” on Facebook.com.
“Today’s students are under unprecedented pressure to achieve,” he says. “They know we have created an educational system that values their aptitude more than their attitude, their ability more than their effort and their talent more than their character. They are surrounded by signs that tell them that WHAT they can do is more important than WHO they are, regardless of the code of conduct posters on the classroom wall.”
According to Gauld, students are pushed to succeed in a grade-based system that starts naming winners at an early age. A ‘win at any cost’ philosophy takes over. Kids are gripped by these powerful influences that can and do manifest themselves in potentially harmful ways, including the current abuse of Adderall.
A 2010 study published in the journal, “Addiction,” found that 25 percent of students enrolled at 119 competitive American universities had used the drug as a study aid.
Another 2008 survey study from the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that only 6.4 percent of students had used the drug in the past year, but that college students aged 18-22 were twice as likely to abuse Adderall than non students from the same age group.
“There are serious ramifications to winning at any cost,” he says, “including the loss of the opportunity to really learn and build real self-esteem earned by genuine best efforts and hard work. A report card will not replace that in life.”
Since 1966 the foundation of guiding principles at Hyde lies in what they call The 10 Priorities. These include priorities that often go against the grain of our culture, including Attitude over Aptitude; Truth over Harmony; Principles over Rules; and Valuing Success and Failure.
Gauld has drawn from these decades of experience in his latest book.
“I have taught and coached teenagers for most of my career and watched thousands of them go off to college. Some just take off like rockets from the get-go. Others either fail to launch or crash and burn before midterms,” he says.
To Gauld, tricks, cheating and “study buddies” are never the way to achieve. The key is independent time management.
“Surprisingly, success in college has little to do with ability but everything to do with a student’s character — how he or she learns to manage time, and employ a little self-discipline.”
For those students and any others interested in beating the odds, Gauld offers a set of well-tested recommendations to students who may need help through the transition to college, and beyond. He acknowledges that while the advice is not necessarily a path to the dean’s list, students who test and follow through with his five tips will maintain “student in good standing” status throughout their college careers.
Here he offers these simple tips, or rules, to help students:
Rule #1: GO…TO…CLASS: The first rule also happens to be the most important. Sounds simple, but it’s one of the snares of those who don’t complete their college degree. A student’s newfound freedom of time and freedom of choice (which, in the cafeteria, also invokes a common weight gain in the first year) needs to be met with a sense of responsibility.
“Attending class not only reinforces material consumed on the student’s own time, but it fosters a relationship between the student and professor, which makes students less likely to flunk or drop the class. Not attending regularly, or thinking ‘I can catch up later,’ quickly becomes a very slippery slope,” Gauld explains.
Rule #2: STUDY: Study three hours/day for five days/week. Set aside two days to spend as you please. Do not put off regular studying. Do not “cram” in desperation, believing you will catch up on weeks of lessons the night before an exam. It will not work and will leave you exhausted.
“Fifteen hours a week of study still leaves you plenty of time for social activities and relaxation,” says Gauld. “In fact, it will leave you more than 100 hours. But you’ve got to train your mind and make studying a priority.”
Rule #3: COMMIT TO SOMETHING: Getting involved in a recreational or extracurricular activity can be the key to not drowning in the ocean of free time that college offers. Tried-and-true activities like sports, drama, student government, campus politics, and even getting a job can be vital not only to an enriching overall experience but in terms of the time-honored notion, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.”
“I have never seen kids fail who applied these steps,” says Gauld. “The only ‘study buddies’ students need are good habits.”
Rule #4: GET A MENTOR: Having a support system as a resource in college is invaluable. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes — including professors, coaches, advisors, and boosters — and the value of their occasional critiques and “reality checks” as well as praise and encouragement can mean the difference between success and failure.
Rule #5: PROSCRASTINATION KILLS: This obvious line from a Hartwick College student says it all, and yet there are many students — and grownups — who ignore its snare.
“There are other basics, such as the surprising importance of eating, sleeping, and showering, and how they are directly linked to getting things done and yet get lost in the shuffle,” says Gauld. “There’s a good chance if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not taking care of any business.”