How to Become an Intellectual Giant: Developing Your Student Mentality

Image by Matt Wynn, Flickr

Image by Matt Wynn, Flickr

What is a student? According to the definition on, a student is “any person who studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully”. So how does a great student differentiate themselves from any other? It all comes down to a proper “student mentality”. Developing a strong student mentality gives you the ability to figure things out for yourself and learn almost anything. Nothing can stop an adept learner. By paying heed to these following qualities, believe it or not, learning becomes addicting.





  • Be humble. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be a humble learner. I’ve seen many kids grow and develop into know-it-alls. Having an ego is good, but those who remain more open and accepting to new ideas learn at a much faster rate than those who let their egos get in the way. It’s okay to be wrong or not know something, and as a student, being humble leaves room for growth. Remember, you wouldn’t be here if you already knew everything! Bill Nye once said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t!”
  • Develop a growth mindset. A growth mindset is understanding that intelligence and abilities CAN be developed (it’s been scientifically proven). You CAN get smarter. Too many times people are praised for their achievements more so than the work they put into it. This causes most people to shy away from challenges because they are afraid of failure. A fixed mindset is believing that smartness and talent is an innate ability – but this is not true.
  • Be curious. Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious”. I’m sure that everyone has heard at least once that the best way to learn is to ask questions. Be inquisitive! When unlocking your curiosity, try to focus on questions like why? or how? and stay away from yes or no questions (although you’ll inevitably asking a lot of these, i.e. Do I have to go to class?). When learning a new concept, ask yourself: What is the point of this? When and where do I use this? If something else happened how it does affect the concept I just learned? Ask questions, no matter what they are. The more you ask, the more insatiable your desire to learn becomes!
  • Think critically. Thinking critically can allow students to achieve massive amounts of progress. It’s the ability to think logically and clearly about what to do or believe, by assessing every possible condition deeply – without letting emotions get in the way. For example, if you failed a test or midterm, how do you assess the situation? Did you truly study as much as you could have? And if you did, was it effective? Did you have a good sleep? If you learn to consider all possibilities with a just approach, you’re most likely to find the answer so you can move forward.

Here are some habits you can implement to start developing a good student mentality:

  • Write everything down! When you’re in lecture, make sure to record as much of what the prof says as you can. I mean everything!
  • Make it a requirement to write down questions for every lecture (I’m sure you’ve got a few), then ask your professor. It can be something as simple as circling a diagrammatical component or asking deeper questions. The point is for you to feed your curiosity.
  • When faced with a very challenging problem that makes you think, “I can’t” (fixed mindset) finish it with “…yet”. Say, “How do I get better?” or, “Effort makes me smarter!”

All of these characteristics have a way of combining themselves naturally as you practice them, so don’t worry about mastering them all at once! I have never defined myself as a smart person because being smart does not mean you can learn anything – instead I’ve always thought of myself as a hard worker; a student who implements proper habits and mindsets diligently. I believe that’s all you need to achieve what you want!

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