Our staff and faculty make the effort to meet you where you are at in your life journey and educational experience. We know your journey may shift from semester to semester, mainly because life happens, circumstances change, and plans may need to be adjusted. That’s okay. Staying flexible is essential for developing and maintaining what is called a “growth mindset.” At NC State, we believe what brain scientists (neuroscientists) have discovered from their research: the human brain has a natural ability to change and adapt to new information, situations, and circumstances. They call it neuro-plasticity. We call it your positive, can-do way of being.
People who believe they can grow do grow. We know you can. And we are here to help you experience it and own it. In order for us to remain in-step together, we need to communicate openly with each other all the time. We always make the effort to collaborate. This is the NC State culture: we ask questions; we find answers; we work together to produce results that work. In this section of the Adult Learners website, we briefly describe five characteristics (or qualities) that will empower you to be a leader in your journey at NC State and in your journey as a lifelong learner.
Believe in you. Believe in the power of your mind. Believe in your ability to learn, change, and grow. At NC State, we promote the growth mindset among our students. It’s a positive and productive way of feeling and thinking about yourself that helps you gain momentum in your college experience. The growth mindset is based upon research which shows that the human brain has the ability to rewire itself throughout life—from birth through adulthood.
Some students come to college with a fixed mindset. They believe that some things about them will not change. We disagree. If you believe you’re not good at math or English, we encourage you to change that belief and engage in a new way of thinking. If you believe you’re not good at taking tests or speaking in front of a group, we encourage you to challenge that belief, too.
Here are some positive thoughts that will influence your growth mindset:
- I like to try new things.
- I can learn to do anything I want.
- Challenges help me grow.
- My attitude and effort influence my ability to learn new ideas and skills.
- Learning is often a process of creating then revising and revising again and again—until I achieve mastery.
- Setbacks are not failures: they are opportunities to try again and revise.
- I will replace the feeling of failure with the feeling of not-yet: “I have not yet mastered the skill, but I will.”
- Feedback from faculty, peers, and employers is constructive: it helps me gain a new perspective and approach.
- Big accomplishments are often achieved through a series of small incremental successes over time.
- I am inspired by my successes and the successes of others.
We encourage you to ask questions—inside classrooms and administrative offices and outside. This is the heart of the NC State culture. Know what you know. Know what you don’t know. Be honest about it. And ask good questions. This is the foundation of all learning—in school, at work, and in the community for the rest of your life. Here’s a brief summary of a simple technique for navigating your learning experiences at NC State and in the community:
- Be genuinely curious about yourself and the world around you
- Believe that every life experience is an opportunity to learn and grow
- Ask questions
- Stay open to answers and listen without judgment
- Ask more clarifying questions if necessary
- Take notes and cite your sources
- Compare answers you receive from conversations, from printed and online documents, and from audio podcasts and videos (here’s where your notes come in handy)
- Make a decision
- Take action
- Observe and evaluate the results of your decisions and actions
- Ask more questions of yourself and others
- Revise your decisions and actions if necessary
- Remember that setbacks are not failures: they are opportunities to learn, change, and grow
Life experiences occur in the context of human relationships. The questions we ask, answers we receive, evaluations and decisions we make, and actions we take usually occur in the context of relationships. The quality of your experiences at NC State will be influenced, in part, by the quality of the relationships you make and maintain with people here. According to the Adult Learner 360 Student Survey (AL-360), we score very high on the level of social support that we provide to students, so take advantage of this. Pursue supportive relationships with the following:
- Enrollment Advisor (Admissions Counselor)
- Success Coach (for all first-year students)
- Financial Aid Staff
- Academic Liaison
- Faculty Advisor
- Academic Tutors
- Career Coordinator
- Personal Counselor (who provides help to students with personal challenges)
- Staff in administrative offices throughout campus
- Faculty of each class you take
- Classmates and other fellow students
Research shows that students who make plans tend to finish their college experience with success. As we described above, plans may change because of life experiences and circumstances. However, it is important to make a plan, stick to it, and revise it when necessary. Your plan will be your guide. Staff and faculty will help you develop plans that are individualized and customized for your goals, dreams, and circumstances. Your plans will keep you on track—and help you build your momentum. Examples include the following:
- Academic plan
- Study-skills plan
- Tutoring plan (for your major course of study and individual classes)
- Financial (payment) plan
- Financial-aid plan
- Basic needs review and plan (e.g., assistance with food, clothing, housing, healthcare, daycare, transportation)
- Career plan
Adult learners are motivated people who take initiative to make their dreams and dream-jobs a reality. We witness this every semester. When you’re on-a-roll and have that fire in your eyes, we can tell. And we’ll help you keep that momentum. We also know that you might get tired or discouraged or experience moments of doubt and fear. If that happens, please let us know. Reach out. Speak up. Let’s plan solutions together and get your optimism and energy recharged.
Your college experience is like intellectual exercise. It takes effort. Research shows that the human brain is like a muscle. It changes and gets stronger the more you use it and challenge it. When you learn something new and difficult, your brain changes and grows. When you make the effort to practice what you’ve learned, your brain changes and grows even more. Here’s a simple formula for your personal growth:
- Always make your best effort
- Develop good practice strategies and habits
- Ask for help from others