Words and illustrations by Sarah Logan
The end of the school year has come. Students at CCNY attended the last of their classes, read their last assigned books and absorbed as much information as they could for their finals throughout this it is vital to remember that college is stressful and that many students are studying with debilitating mental illnesses.
About halfway into the semester of Fall 2018, I was talking with a friend about our upcoming writing assignment due in our Freshman Composition class. We were chuckling and cringing over the fact that we hadn’t even started it yet. On the inside I was stressed, although no one could really tell.
I asked my friend, who is in the Macaulay Honors College, “Why do you think we procrastinate so much?” I knew the true answers: I didn’t want to write it, I’d much rather watch Netflix, it would be too difficult. But we started questioning why. Why don’t we just get assignments done when they need to be done?
She then talked about a discussion she had in one of her honors classes. The professor was dealing with stressed students because of an incoming essay deadline. Then, the conversation transitioned to the subjects of procrastination and perfectionism. Ah, perfectionism. An entity I am very familiar with.
My friend described the professor’s words: “She said that we procrastinate because we are both perfectionists and honors students. We wait until the last moment to get started because we already know the essay won’t be perfect. We also have the added pressure of our scholarship and our own high expectations.” I responded with a line I’ve used many times, although not originally mine, but some meme genius on the internet – “Diamonds are made under pressure.”
With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I thought the topic of perfectionism would be the perfect subject to write about. How does this affect our work as students? Does it set us back or propel us forward? I decided to analyze perfectionism and honors students specifically, mostly because I am one myself. Does being in the honors program make you more susceptible to perfectionism and procrastination? I asked some of my fellow classmates in the CCNY Honors Program or Macaulay Honors College.
Daniella Jimenez, a freshman studying biology says that she doesn’t believe she is a perfectionist. She doesn’t feel pressured to perform perfectly in college because of her scholarship from the honors college. Although, she finds that she does wait until the last minute to work on assignments. “It depends on the subject,” Jimenez responded. “I procrastinate more when given essays to write. I study harder for my STEM courses.” I then asked her if she thought this was a byproduct of her own perfectionism. “Again, this depends on the subject, but generally no.”
“I feel like when I wait until the last minute to complete tasks it’s easier for me to actually get it done,” says Natia Guerrier, an undeclared freshman who is leaning towards computer science. “It gives me more pressure to take on the assignment,” she stated.
Anzim Sultan, a freshman studying physics, had something to say about his own college experience. “I don’t feel pressure to get perfect grades because of my scholarship,” he told me. “More to keep my status at the honors college.”
Malai O’Keeffe, who is currently a sophomore majoring in psychology and minoring in biochemical engineering replied, “personally, I feel the most pressure to get perfect grades because of my own standards. I procrastinate essays especially. Although, not so much projects and tests because they require some more time and preparation.”
For some more of their own opinions, I asked them what their favorite activity is to relax. Aidan Subrahimovic, a sophomore studying physics says that he “sleeps a lot and lays in bed, especially during finals season.”
Sultan enjoys “talking with [his] friends” to combat school stress. “I watch comedies, or, more accurately, binge watch them. It’s my own form of relaxation.”
My favorite stress reliever is exercise. Even if it is a quick walk up and down some flights of stairs or a walk at night with friends, I always feel refreshed and ready to work afterward.
In my own opinion, I do think that my aversion to starting school assignments comes from a place of both perfectionism and fear. I’m afraid of starting work because I don’t want to deal with the difficulties of writing. I also believe that because I am a perfectionist, I’m always reaching for goals that I can never attain. I don’t believe that this connects solely to being a perfectionist.
It’s fair to conclude that there are no true answers to the questions I’ve posed. Everyone’s college experience is entirely different. It is hard to label only the honors students as perfectionists and procrastinators because each student’s situation is different. Correlation cannot explain causation. Perfectionists are just diligent, hardworking people, whether that be in the Macaulay Honors College or not.