Does Procrastination Pay Off?

By Purna Patel, PharmD candidate, Sierra George, PharmD candidate, Yuan Zhao, PhD, Kimberly Elder, PharmD

Procrastination, defined as the avoidance of a task that needs to be completed, is a universal phenomenon. However, procrastination is considerably more widespread in students. StudyMode surveyed 1,300 high school and college students about their study habits. The study found that 87% of students are self-acclaimed procrastinators, and 45% report negative impacts of this behavior on their grades on a regular basis.1 The impact of procrastination is not limited to academic performance. A German study found that academic procrastination is also related to increased frequency of academic dishonesty.2 A study published in the American Journal of Higher Education confirmed that procrastination is one of the primary motivating factors for cheating in pharmacy schools.3 Procrastination was in the top three reasons students gave for cheating, second only to fear of failure. The study also stated possible solutions: peer teaching and student support groups. Sullivan University College of Pharmacy (SUCOP) has implemented a student-lead procrastination prevention event and has studied the effectiveness of this event in regards to student academic performance.

Two types of procrastinators have been identified: passive and active.3 Passive procrastinators are paralyzed by their hesitancy to act and end up failing to complete tasks on time, while active procrastinators knowingly delay an unwanted task in favor of an activity considered more valuable. Active procrastinators are characterized as having more realistic perceptions and control of time. Although both procrastinators showed similar levels of academic performance, the problem lies more in passive procrastination, such as scrolling through a social media feed to avoid finishing a more productive assignment.4 This leads to worsening time management skills and can increase stress levels, whereas active procrastinators find more fulfillment in their choice of activities outside of their academic duties. Teaching active procrastination may help with time management skills, but to be more efficient in learning, the avoidance of procrastination results in benefits such as better retention of material and reduced student stress.

Some procrastination prevention techniques include setting realistic and attainable goals, developing effective time management skills, and setting up a reward system. Although procrastination is a personal study challenge, pharmacy programs may benefit from investing more resources to help students reduce this learning challenge. At SUCOP, the Rho Chi Society has taken an active role in organizing a quarterly procrastination prevention event. We aim to increase students’ awareness of procrastination and help them set manageable goals.

Procrastination Prevention Event at SUCOP
The procrastination prevention event is held quarterly outside of class time. Date and time are selected based on the college’s exam and project calendar to ensure: 1) all PY1 and PY2 students are available to attend; and 2) a challenging exam is coming up in a one to two week window. Each event has faculty and/or student led review of topics that historically proved to be difficult and would be tested on the upcoming exam. Participation is voluntary. Door prizes and food are provided at each event in order to entice more students to attend. Starting summer quarter 2017, attendance at the event was recorded and an anonymous voluntary exit survey was conducted which included demographic data, self-reported GPA, study hours and overall perceptions of the event. De-identified exam scores on reviewed topics of focus were obtained from Examsoft with permission of the course coordinators.

Preliminary Findings
Data was analyzed from 3 consecutive events with 42 total students in attendance. The surveys had an 85% response rate which showed:

  • 96% of attendees were satisfied with the event
  • 98% of attendees completed all anticipated tasks
  • 95% of attendees felt attending this event will improve their grade
  • 100% of attendees would attend another event

Demographic data analysis:

  • 80% female vs. 20% male
  • 93% do not have children
  • 73% worked less than 10 hours/week

Although the event was favored by the majority of attendees, analysis of the exam grades revealed no significant difference among those who attended the events versus those who did not. Students appreciated having a set study time for major exams, but in the future, more focus should possibly be placed on further review following the session. Giving smaller goals to break down the more difficult material reviewed during these sessions would aid both true procrastinating students and those who just attended for additional review.

What We’ve Learned So Far
With this preliminary data, we hope to identify and overcome barriers to participation in a program to combat procrastination by making these events more available and meaningful for students. Emphasizing these events as a valuable use of time, whether it is proving the effectiveness in raising test grades or through use of a reward system such as extra credit, will hopefully aid in better management of procrastination behaviors in our students.

We would like to thank Emily Jones, PharmD, Meredith Neimann, PharmD, Jessica Thomson, PharmD and Nathan Hughes, PharmD candidate, for their dedication in organizing procrastination prevention events, and Meredith and Jessica for the initiation of this research project.


  1. Eighty-seven percent of high school and college students are self-proclaimed procrastinators. Published 27 May, 2014. Accessed on 20 August, 2018
  2. Patrzek J, Sattler S, Veen F, Grunschel C, Fries S. Investigating the effect of academic procrastination on the frequency and variety of academic misconduct: a panel study, Stud Higher Educ, 2015. 40:6,1014-1029
  3. Ip EJ, Nguyen K, Shah BM, Doroudgar S, Bidwal MK. Motivations and Predictors of Cheating in Pharmacy School. Am J Higher Educ. 2016;80(8):133.
  4. Chu A, Choi J. Rethinking procrastination: positive effects of “active” procrastination behavior on attitudes and performance. J Soc Psychol. 2005 Jun;145(3):245-64.


Sierra George is a third year PharmD student at the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy. She is an active member of Rho Chi Society Delta Kappa Chapter and serves on their tutoring committee. When she is procrastinating from her studies, it is usually with a book in hand and a cat on her lap.

Purna Patel is a third year PharmD student at the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy. She is a member of many professional organizations including APhA, KSHP, ASHP and AAPS. She is also an active member of Rho Chi Society Delta Kappa Chapter, Phi Lambda Sigma Delta Xi Chapter and Lambda Kappa Sigma Alpha Omega Chapter. In her free time, she loves traveling and binge watching tv shows in addition to being a passionate foodie.


Yuan Zhao is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy. She is the co-advisor for Rho Chi Society Delta Kappa Chapter. Her educational scholarship interests include innovative teaching strategies, assessment, and metacognition. In her free time, Yuan enjoys watching movies, reading books, and traveling with her family.

Kimberly Elder is an Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical and Administrative Sciences at the Sullivan University College of Pharmacy. She is the co-advisor of the Rho Chi Society Delta Kappa Chapter, Teaching Certificate Program Coordinator, coordinates several Patient Care Lab courses, and has a practice site in Internal Medicine at the Robley Rex VA medical center. She loves spending time with family and friends, traveling, and reading.

Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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