Predicting long-term success in college

Jul 16, 2013 by Amy Hodges

(Phys.org) —Long-term success in college may be better predicted with Advanced Placement (AP) exams and personality traits in combination with standard admission practices, according to new research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Rice University.

The study showed that prediction of student graduation may be significantly improved by including in the college admission process consideration of AP exam performance and a small set of personality traits, along with traditional indicators of student abilities and high school grades.

The research also revealed that, on average, who changed their college major from a field in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) identified different reasons for doing so. Women who changed from a STEM major tended to have lower "self-concepts" in math and science—they were less likely to view themselves in these fields. Men tended to have lower levels of orientation toward "mastery and organization."

"There has been significant discussion in the domains of educational research and public policy about the difficulties in both attracting and retaining in STEM majors," said Margaret Beier, associate professor of psychology at Rice and the study's co-author. "We're very interested to know how the role of and domain knowledge influences the selection and retention of talented students and accounts for gender differences in STEM and non-STEM majors in a selective undergraduate institution."

Phillip Ackerman, a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the study's lead author, said that they also hope university admissions officers consider taking into account what applicants "know," in addition to their grades and .

"Given that over half of the AP exams are completed prior to the students' senior year of high school, their actual exam scores could be part of the formal selection process and assist in identifying students most likely to graduate from college/university," Ackerman said.

The study tracked individual trait measures (such as personality, self-concept and motivation) of 589 undergraduate students at the Georgia Institute of Technology from 2000 to 2008. The selected students were enrolled in Psychology 1000, a one-credit elective course for freshmen undergraduate students. Questionnaires assessing these trait measures were distributed to approximately 1,100 of the 1,196 students enrolled in the course in fall 2000, and 589 students completed the survey.

The researchers hope their research will help students, counselors and other stakeholders better match high school elective options to student interests and personal characteristics. They also hope that university admissions officers consider taking into account what applicants "know" (for example, what they learned in their elective classes), in addition to their grades and standardized test scores.

Ruth Kanfer, a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, co-authored the study with Ackerman and Beier.

The study, "Trait Complex, Cognitive Ability and Domain Knowledge Predictors of Baccalaureate Success, STEM Persistence and Gender Differences," was funded by the Georgia Institute of Technology and is available online at psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2013-14499-001

Explore further: Gender gap in STEM majors linked to high school job plans

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gender gap in STEM majors linked to high school job plans

May 10, 2013

(Phys.org) —The fact that women are much less likely than men to choose science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors in college can be traced to gender differences in occupational plans in high school, reports ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.

Low tolerance for pain? The reason may be in your genes

Researchers may have identified key genes linked to why some people have a higher tolerance for pain than others, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.