Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helping Latino Scholars Stay Focused

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Helping Latino Scholars Stay Focused

Article excerpt

The buzzer went off every two minutes, notifying the student that a new call, text or posting had arrived. Stopping mid-thought, he would scan the message, respond and return to the discussion. (Now, where were we?) Latino students are barraged with distractions but are not always equipped to handle them. Executive functioning - the ability to make and carry out plans - does not fully develop until the mid-twenties, so lack of planning, difficulty balancing multiple demands and struggling with interruptions is common among college students. The young Latino college student might not be developed enough to avoid falling prey to distractions.

Student services, mentors and older students can help younger Hispanic students minimize distractions by teaching and supporting certain practices.

Start with list making. Encourage Latino students to make a daily to-do list. If things aren't getting done despite the list, work with the student to examine why.

Clear out excessive stuff. Old movies, piles of comic books, outdated electronic games and other "stuff" clutter a workspace and distract a student from completing priorities. Challenge the Latino to purge or sell things no longer used, so they can focus on priorities.

Unwanted or unnecessary demands drain a student of vital time, energy and clarity. If the Latino student is spending time with people because "it's too awkward" not to, strategize ways to say "no" yet stay in good graces with others and live guilt free. Students should also limit time on electronics. Since the internet can be accessed from nearly anywhere, remind the student to set limits about when, how often and how long he will check email, use social media, listen to music, watch videos or surf the web. Those minutes turn into hours - time better spent on priorities.

A routine helps a student avoid the need to re-plan, rearrange and catch up with essential things that are missed or end up being done "whenever," derailing the student's time to study or attend class. A routine builds predictability and frees up time for other creative efforts. Even though many Latino college students resist routine because they fear being in a rut or are resisting structure, encourage them to develop one. Exercising, preparing meals, running errands, studying and checking in with family are repeat activities that can become a student's routine. And getting things done with less stress and disruption can be surprisingly exciting.

Forget multitasking. …

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