Eternal Student Syndrome: How to Overcome It? All You Need to Know

student child

The syndrome of an eternal student, or perpetual student syndrome, used to be a joke in the past. However, in 2021 it became a problem for many people whose desire for their 10th diploma or 25th online course certificate definitely ran out of their control.

So, what’s that “syndrome” in a current reality? Let’s make it clear at once: although there are some topical articles online involving psychologists to discuss the problem, it’s not classified as a mental disorder. At least, for now. However, this doesn’t mean an eternal or perpetual student shouldn’t go to see their specialist.

The eternal student syndrome arises when one’s wish for regular self-improvement and personal development got out of control and turned into something different. In fact, their study becomes a specific form of procrastination.

This syndrome is difficult to notice. Like, a person spends days studying materials and writing papers. They refuse to rest a bit watching an exciting movie instead of studying. There is nothing for them to doubt. The fact that the eternal student is getting their third, fourth, and fifth diploma doesn’t mean anything to them so far.

Still, the point is that the perpetual student only PRETENDS to develop their erudition and personal qualities. That is only a mask. Such “students” don’t get any empirical or practical experience. They do not do anything.  

Additionally, that syndrome is difficult to overcome. Getting new knowledge instead of practicing skills becomes a student’s habit. They like learning fresh things, and that’s it. That’s a comfort zone where a student knows how to behave and what to do.

The nature of a syndrome actually allows making some conclusions. Let’s take the info above as the basis and try to find out how to deal with one’s eternal studentship.

Instead, you should find answers to three questions.

College Student

Why Do You Study It?

Seriously. Why are you in the process of getting your third master’s degree in a row? Is it actually because you are “looking for your calling”?

In case you doubt that answer, that’s your first consideration point. Moreover, if that third major was picked just “to know more” about “an interesting subject”, you’ve got a problem.

Why? Because answers like that mean your studying is goalless. Your study serves the only goal: to study. And it is the point where we come to the next question.

Is It Procrastination?

Most frequently, procrastination does not mean a person is lazy or undisciplined. It only serves as an indicator of a task being not too interesting and involving for them. When speaking of perpetual students, procrastination may also serve as a particular form of escapism. They might want to postpone becoming adults by going that way.

If there appears even a slight doubt inside your mind about a real answer to the second question, then you should reconsider your current approach to your study. In case you don’t have a defined, metaphorically “visible” intention of how you are going to use your new knowledge after you graduate and receive that diploma, that’s the second milestone.

Nobody will ask you what prevents you from starting or continuing your career instead of going through another college program. That’s your personal matter. But if you feel there is something to overcome, then the third question is for you.

Is Help Required?

In other words, is your eternal study just a temporary wandering of a young person, or do you need professional help for some reason? There are three ways for you to go from here.

First, you can understand what’s blocking you from the actual “useful” progress in personal and professional development and then clearly feel that you’re able to deal with the trouble on your own. In this case, all you should do is come up with a plan and start working.

Second, you might figure out the actual problem but fail to find hypothetical solutions. Here, you may want to ask people around you (family, friends, or groupmates, for example) about their piece of advice. If you feel that the inner problem requires professional consultation, the best solution is to go and get it.

Third, you feel stressed, confused, or even frightened because of questions like those above. In this case, the need for expert help from aside is probably the most urgent. Still, the understanding of a problem’s existence is the first step towards finding a solution.

To Conclude

The eternal student syndrome is different from simply looking for one’s life path. It can be a form of procrastination used to mask real reasons and escape adulthood. Getting new knowledge without having an intention to use it practically is one of the first markers of the problem’s existence inside a person’s mind. In case the difficulty is detected, a perpetual student might want to think about asking relatives or professionals for help.


Article edited and fact checked by our editorial team and updated on March 21, 2024