Student Success Series (with: Katya Santucci)

This blog has been reviewed by Béa Schueller and Elijah Nimijean, edited by Rémi Thériault

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Katya Santucci, Research Assistant

Katya, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi there :) — My name is Katya, and I am a recent psychology graduate. I obtained my BA with a major in honours psychology and a minor in sociology at McGill University. Currently, I am working as a research assistant and as a crisis responder for Kids Help Phone. During my undergraduate degree, I was introduced to the enriching content and fascinating research that was being conducted, which inspired me to further pursue graduate studies in clinical psychology. I have always been passionate about mental health, interpersonal relationships and well-being. Joining the CPPA Student Ambassador Program has allowed me to combine my passion for psychology and desire to connect with others to provide a positive and engaging environment that allows other students to flourish!

What do you think made you successful as a student?

For starters, it’s worth mentioning that I love going to school (I have always been that student who was excited to go back to school after summer break)! However, that doesn’t mean that it was never challenging. School can get overwhelming, and this often leads to discouragement. I, for one, struggled immensely with trying to stay on top of the workload while maintaining good grades. As a result, I often would be extremely stressed and tense. Luckily, I was able to manage it without letting it hinder my performance. It wasn’t easy, and the path certainly wasn’t straightforward. Nonetheless, I found my groove and entered university equipped with tools that allowed me to make the most of my undergraduate degree. What I truthfully believe made me a successful student was 1) motivation and 2) organization.

Motivation — Despite the many hurdles along the way, I never lost sight of my end-goal (to graduate successfully and work towards my career), and I always maintained a drive to engage in goal-oriented behaviours. For example, not only was I motivated to study and work hard, but I was also motivated to get involved with research and extracurriculars that allowed me to gain experience in the field. Remembering what you’re working towards and what you’re trying to achieve is essential.

Organization — The ability to strategize and plan ahead is extremely helpful. Not only does organization allow you to manage your time efficiently, it also helps you increase your productivity and maintain focus (keep reading! I’ll share some tips).

Motivation and organization are two factors that balance each other out — when one is lacking, the other takes over. For example, on days where I felt discouraged and helpless, I used my organizational skills to keep me on track and guide my attention. Whereas, on days where I felt completely overwhelmed and lost, I remained motivated to push forward.

What strength, skill, strategy, mindset, or habit allowed you to get where you are today?

To reiterate what I stated above, organization is a skill that I firmly believe every student should try to acquire. A piece of advice I give to family and friends who need help organizing is to write stuff down and make a plan. As a student, it is important to strategize and use your precious time wisely. Making a weekly, or even daily, plan of what you need to get done is extremely helpful, and will help your mind feel at ease. Personally, I find that there is something about writing things down and visually seeing what has to get done that motivates me to get crackin! A universal student experience is feeling overwhelmed, which oftentimes can lead to procrastination; this is exactly why outlining what needs to get done and when it needs to get done is beneficial. Updating your calendar frequently is another good habit; due dates are crucial and making note of them is essential!

Another thing I want to touch on is mindset: staying positive and believing in yourself is an important skill! It will not be easy, being a student is tough… but remember that anyone can thrive when given the right tools. You can work on things and you can get better. We may not be the best at everything, but we can certainly improve. Having this mindset allowed me to stay motivated when I received grades that were lower than expected — something I think every student can most probably relate with.

How would you invite other students to cultivate those qualities?

I would say that the first step is knowing what you want to accomplish. Before deciding on how, think about why. What do you want to achieve and why? We are all unique and we all have different goals. Find what motivates you. Think about the big picture, and then, you can think about the smaller things you need to get there. For example, my overarching goal is to become a clinical psychologist, and to be an active researcher. To achieve this, I need to pursue graduate studies, which requires a competitive grade point average. Therefore, one of my smaller goals was to maintain high grades. With this in mind, I was motivated to study and put great effort into my school work. In fact, I actually enjoyed studying, and I would look forward to planning my week, knowing that every small thing I was working on would eventually lead to something great!

To summarize the above points: I would advise you to 1) figure out your big picture, visualize where you see yourself in the future. 2) Think about what you need to get there, do some research! 3) Get organized. Make weekly, daily and even yearly plans. Figure out the courses you need to take and the extracurriculars you can engage with that will help you get where you need to be, and finally, 4) Always remind yourself of why you are working hard: this will fuel your motivation.

Any last words you’d like to share with fellow students?

Know that it is okay to get discouraged and that we should not be ashamed of it, or view it as indicative of failure! Changing the outlook you have on things can go a long way… If you find yourself in a hurdle, try to look at the situation from a different light, and reward yourself for your attempt and effort. It’s important to be proud of the baby steps you take!

For any questions or comments you have regarding the content in this blog or about the CPPA Student Ambassador Program in general, please feel free to reach out: :)

If you liked this blog or if it has helped you in any way, please take a moment to like, share, or comment!

We are the Student Ambassador Program of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association (CPPA). Find our website here:

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