Procrastination in College Students and its Effects

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Procrastination in College Students and Its Effects

Do you ever find yourself waiting until the last minute to complete assignments? If you do, you are not alone. Many college students have a tendency to procrastinate on assignments. For most, procrastination can have negative consequences and can be harmful to their academic success, but for some procrastination is intentional and can have positive outcomes. Researchers are doing studies to define the difference between passive procrastination and active procrastination and the consequences or benefits they have on college students.

The most common form of procrastination is called passive procrastination. Passive procrastinators are traditional procrastinators who postpone their tasks until the last minute because of an inability to make the decision to act in a timely manner (Choi and Moran 196). There are many negative internal consequences that can arise from this type of procrastination that may include regret, irritation, despair, and self-blame, as well as external consequences that can include impaired academic and work progress, lost opportunities, and strained relationships (Haycock et al. 317). The negative consequences procrastination can have on college students could lead to poor grade point averages and failure to complete courses.

Throughout the years researchers have been studying these effects on college students and their inability to complete assignments in a timely manner. In 2007, it was estimated that 75% of college students procrastinated, with 50% of them saying they thought it may be a problem because they procrastinate constantly (Burka & Yuen 6). A study done at one university on academic procrastination showed that as many as 50% of the participants procrastinated on assignments (Haycock et al. 317). Some college students find it easier to delay working on assignments to do more pleasurable activities which then causes them to rush to meet deadlines and often results in undesirable grades and poor self-esteem.

In 1997, Dianne Tice and Roy Baumeister, both professors of psychology, published one of the first studies of the nature of procrastination in Psychological Science (Jaffe, par. 8). They tracked college students level of procrastination by looking at their academic performance, stress levels, and overall health during the semester. Tice and Baumeister (1997) reported that university students who rated high on procrastination not only received low grades but also reported a high level of stress along with poor self-rated health (Chu and Choi 246). Tice later teamed up with Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology, to further study the how procrastination can have negative consequences. In 2000, Tice and Ferrari published their conclusions in the Journal of Research in Personality, finding that procrastinators tend to undermine their own best efforts (Jaffe, par. 10). These studies are consistent in concluding the negative effects procrastination can have on college students but do not tell us why college students procrastinate.

For some college students, they have an underlying fear of failure, while for others itr's a fear of success. According to Burka and Yuen, As long as you procrastinate, you never have to confront the real limits of your ability, whatever those limits are (22). Some college students use procrastination as a way to avoid the humiliation and judgement of failing (Burka & Yuen, 22). The fear that their success will raise other peoples expectations of them is another reason college students procrastinate (Novotney 2). Procrastinating because of the fear of failure can affect oner's ability to reach their full potential and success in the future. For those that have a fear of success, they want to do well but unconscious worries keep them from succeeding and results in procrastination (Burka & Yuen 23). These fears are often not noticed by college students until they start to negatively affect their grades.

Studies have shown that negative outcomes are more likely with passive procrastination, but newer studies are showing that it is possible to procrastinate and achieve positive outcomes. In 2005, Angela Hsin Chun Chu and Jin Nam Choi provided an alternative perspective and demonstrated that not all procrastination behaviors are harmful or are precursors of negative consequences (Choi and Moran 195). Chu and Choi believe that, Active procrastinators make intentional decisions to procrastinate, using their strong motivation under time pressure, and they are able to complete tasks before deadlines and achieve satisfactory outcomes (Choi and Moran 196). During their study of a group of 230 undergraduates from three Canadian universities, they found that active procrastinators demonstrated time perceptions, attitudes, coping styles, and academic performance that were nearly identical to (and in some cases even better than) those of non-procrastinators (Choi and Moran 196). An active procrastinator might, for example, start a project the day itr's due because they feel they will be able to focus better, meet expectations, and still receive a satisfactory grade. By approaching procrastination as an active behavior, scholars could highlight beneficial outcomes for students who intentionally delayed academics (Hensley 1).

Although further research is needed to verify the benefits of active procrastination, researchers are finding that there can be positive outcomes of procrastination. Active procrastinators have the benefit of being able to organize their time and are self-motivated, which can drive them towards their goals and ability to achieve their desired outcome (Choi and Moran 197). Survey-based studies of active procrastination have included undergraduates of all academic levels and a range of ethnic backgrounds (Hensley 1). Active procrastination is an observable behavioral characteristic that encompasses a personr's affective preference for time pressure, cognitive decision to procrastinate, behavioral capacity to meet deadlines, and ability to achieve satisfactory outcomes (Choi & Moran 196). Using these four characterizations, Chu and Choi (2005) were able to determine whether a person is a passive procrastinator or an active procrastinator.

Choi and doctoral student Sarah V. Moran have taken Chu and Choir's study and expanded on the four dimensions of characteristics and included comparing them with other general personality characteristics (Choi & Moran 197). By expanding the scale from the 12-item measure that Chu and Choi (2005) used to a 40-item measure, they were able to take into account various cognitive, affective, and behavioral mechanisms to improve their study (Choi and Moran 200). During their expanded study of active procrastination Choi and Moran were able to confirm the findings from Chu and Choir's study in 2005. There is still more research to be done to determine if active procrastination is directly related to high academic performance as it is connected to higher grade point averages (Hensley 2).

A lot of college students procrastinate when it comes to completing their assignments. Most college students procrastinate because they find other activities to be more pleasurable, but studies show that some college students do it because they feel they can manage their time and focus better. Passive procrastinators are more likely to receive poor grades, have lower self-esteem, and higher stress levels due to the pressure they put on themselves to complete tasks on time. While passive procrastinators tend to receive more negative outcomes, studies show that active procrastinators excel in their studies when under time pressure and focus better. Active procrastinators intentionally wait until the last minute to complete assignments and are still able to receive desirable outcomes.

Work Cited

  1. Angela Hsin Chun, Chu and Choi, Jin Nam. Rethinking Procrastination: Positive Effects of Active Procrastination Behavior on Attitudes and Performance. Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 145, no. 3, June 2005, p. 245 EBSCOhost,,ip,cpid&custid=s6246780&db=f5h&AN=17158868&site=ehost-liove&scope=site. Accessed by 09 March 2018.
  2. Burka, Jane B. and Lenora M. Yuen.Procrastination : Why You Do It, What to Do about It Now. vol. 25th anniversary ed., fully rev. and updated, Da Capo Press, 2008. EBSCOhost,,ip,cpid&custid=s6246780&db=e000xna&AN=258727&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed by 08 March 2018.
  3. Choi, Jin Nam and Moran, Sarah V. Why Not Procrastinate? Development and Validation of a New Active Procrastination Scale. The Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 149, no. 2, Apr. 2009, p. 195-212. EBSCOhost,,ip,cpid&custid=s6246780&db=f5h&AN=37349889&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed by 09 March 2018.
  4. Haycock, Laurel A., et al. Procrastination in College Students: The Role of Self-Efficacy and Anxiety. Journal of Counseling & Development, vol. 76, no. 3, Summer98, p. 317 EBSCOhost,,ip,cpid&custid=s6246780&db=buh&AN=951234&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed by 09 March 2018.
  5. Hensley, Lauren C. The Draws and Drawbacks of College Students Active Procrastination. Journal of College Student Development. vol. 57, no. 4, May 2016, p. 465-471.
  6. Jaffe, Eric. Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination. Main Street Practitioner, vol. 6, Nov/Dec 2015, p. 10. EBSCOhost,,ip,cpid&custid=s6246780&db=f5h&AN=114150661&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed by 10 March 2018.
  7. Novotney, Amy. Procrastination or ?intentional delay? GradPsych Magazine, vol. 8, no. 1, Jan 2010, p. 14. Accessed by 01 April 2018
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Procrastination In College Students And Its Effects. (2019, May 28). Retrieved December 4, 2023 , from

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