The Perfectionist Student

Perfectionism: Should students keep it? Or lose it?

A lot of people believe that perfectionists make the best students. Their drive, ambition and desire to achieve… surely this would make them excellent students!?

Some Con’s
  • Seldom feel good enough
  • Accomplishments don’t feel like triumphs
  • Can’t let go of problems and mistakes
  • All-or-nothing mindset
  • Highly self-critical
  • Don’t try if it ‘might’ not work
  • Overly concerned with what others think
  • Guilt / shame over non-performance or failure to achieve
  • Procrastinate execution of plan until the ‘perfect’ plan is created, and confidence is high
  • Deadlines aren’t as important as excellence
Some Pro’s
  • Strive for excellence
  • Sets high standards and goals
  • Thorough and detailed
  • Won’t give up on a problem
  • Take pride in work
  • Conscientious
  • Highly motivated
  • Organised, efficient, planned

Some articles:

Why is this part of my study coaching?

“Perfectionism in its true sense implies a crippling rigidity.”

I’ve struggled with this all my life, and am a ‘recovering perfectionist’, (I’ve coined the phrase ‘Excellentist’!), so I help my students work through how they feel, why, and crucially, how it affects their studies and how to change that.

I give them support, understanding and a realisation of where their habits come from, and how to shift them towards ‘excellence’, rather than ‘perfection’ (which is totally unattainable!)

Mostly, they KNOW that their study habits aren’t quite working, but they don’t know why, and they don’t know how else to study. Note the ‘crippling rigidity’ description above? This means that even the IDEA of changing is terrifying, never mind actually doing it!

I fully explain any changes I suggest, the logic and reasoning, and they accept it. BUT… in the dark of night, when it’s them and their desk… old habits snap back!

This often means DAILY emails, unpacking how the previous day’s studies went, how they’re coping, and how they feel about trying something new.

Students are ALWAYS relieved to hear that someone understands their anxieties, that they’re not ‘more stupid’ than everyone else, and that their feelings of not being good enough aren’t the world’s opinions of them.

How does perfectionism affect your studies?

(These are from my Study Coaching course)


Students often defer exams if they’re not feeling ready for them. If they haven’t finished the syllabus, or done enough questions.


Students put off starting their studies, or doing questions, because they want the perfect plan, they want to feel confident and fully prepared. 


Students sometimes don’t ‘try’ questions or more challenging projects until they feel ready. (Which is generally never!)


The word ALONE makes perfectionist students nervous! They often won’t submit work to me, because they’re more worried about criticism, than improving.

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