3 Factors Increase Chances of Being Successful in College

Posted By Terri Williams on June 27, 2017 at 7:16 am
3 Factors Increase Chances of Being Successful in College

For those without a college degree, the path to being successful continues to narrow. But starting college is only the first step. Recent research reveals too few college students graduate and too few graduate on time.

The reasons students don’t persist in college are as varied as the students themselves. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released a report that may shed light on this problem. The report reviewed more than 60 studies and identified the following three factors as most likely to result in being successful in college:

  • A sense of belonging
  • A growth mindset
  • Personal goals and values

Why are these three particular components so important to being successful? GoodCall® takes a look at each:

A sense of belonging

Gabrielle St. Leger, dean of students at NYIT’s Old Westbury campus in suburban Long Island, tells GoodCall®, “The sense of belonging gets to the heart of everyone’s needs, regardless of race, gender, faith, geographic region, or other important personal identifiers.”

That could be one reason Harvard University rescinded admissions offers from 10 students in the Class of 2021 after finding out that they shared sexist, racist, and other types of inappropriate comments and memes in a private Facebook group.

Sometimes, it’s just the actions of a few students that cause others to feel unwanted, but this behavior can also be pervasive. For example, a recent study reveals the academic pre-med culture includes sabotage and bullying. Some of the survey respondents either experienced or witnessed harassment by classmates, in addition to professors telling students to drop out or change majors.

“Belonging is defined as a feeling of mattering to others, of being important to a greater whole,” St. Leger explains. “Students need to know that they matter to their institution and to particular communities within an institution – however we specifically define ‘community’.” Most colleges have various campus groups, ranging from Greek organizations to clubs, that students can join to develop camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

A growth mindset aids being successful

Another key to being successful in college is the belief that college will provide opportunities for growth. In other words, students have to believe that their higher ed experience will produce additional knowledge. According to Dexter Perkins, a professor in the department of geology and geological engineering at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, “Student motivation is a big and growing problem today – some students tell me it is because there is no guarantee today that, even if they work hard, they will have a successful career after college.”

Perkins believes that this is just an excuse, but he admits that if students have this mindset, instructors need to adjust their teaching styles if they expect to have good results. “We need to put students in charge of their own learning and intellectual development, and help them become motivated by being purposeful about instructional activities and by talking continually with students about the importance of what they are doing.”

Personal goals and values

When students have personal goals and values, they are also more likely to do well academically.  That’s because they believe their hard work will lead to a rewarding and fulfilling job. Knowing and following the crucial steps involved in the pursuit of the desired career can make goals more tangible and attainable.

Participating in an internship is one part of the college process that can increase a student’s chances of success. Michael Van Grinsven leads the internship program at Northwestern Mutual. The program, which has graduated more than 50,000 students, usually results in at least one-third of seniors accepting jobs with the company. “In a survey of current and past interns, one of the key attributes interns pointed to was learning skills they did not get in the classroom and were valuable to their career – whether at Northwestern Mutual or elsewhere,” Van Grinsven says.

Why are internships so valuable? “Our interns work shoulder-to-shoulder with experienced advisors and are immediately immersed in the complex responsibilities that come with the role,” Van Grinsven explains. “As part of that process, they learn how to engage with clients – which includes preparing for meetings, collaborating in a team environment, and being accountable for meeting deliverables and goals.”

Also, it’s never too early to start building your brand, according to Jennifer Magas, vice president of Magas Media Consultants, and an associate professor of public relations at Pace University. “College students – especially seniors need to start integrating themselves into that career before they’ve even graduated.”

She agrees that internships are invaluable to being successful. “Internship experience can help you get a foot into the door, and lead the way to creating and fleshing out a portfolio of real-life work product.” She also recommends that college students start building resumes and cover letters while still in school.



Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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