Thrivers and Divers: Using Non-Academic Measures to Predict College Success and Failure

56 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2016

See all articles by Graham Beattie

Graham Beattie

University of Pittsburgh

Jean-William Laliberté

University of Calgary - Department of Economics

Philip Oreopoulos

University of Toronto - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

Date Written: September 2016

Abstract

We collect a comprehensive set of non-academic characteristics for a representative sample of incoming freshman to explore which measures best predict the wide variance in first-year college performance unaccounted for by past grades. We focus our attention on student outliers. Students whose first-year college average is far below expectations (divers) have a high propensity for procrastination – they self-report cramming for exams and wait longer before starting assignments. They are also considerably less conscientious than their peers. Divers are more likely to express superficial goals, hoping to 'get rich' quickly. In contrast, students who exceed expectations (thrivers) express more philanthropic goals, are purpose-driven, and are willing to study more hours per week to obtain the higher GPA they expect. A simple seven-variable average of these key non-academic variables does well in predicting college achievement relative to adding more variables or letting a machine-algorithm choose. Our results, descriptive in nature, warrant further research on the importance of non-linearities for the design and targeting of successful interventions in higher-education.

Suggested Citation

Beattie, Graham and P. Laliberté, Jean-William and Oreopoulos, Philip, Thrivers and Divers: Using Non-Academic Measures to Predict College Success and Failure (September 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22629. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2837641

Graham Beattie (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

Jean-William P. Laliberté

University of Calgary - Department of Economics ( email )

2500 University Dr. N.W.
Calgary, Albetra T2N 1N4
Canada

Philip Oreopoulos

University of Toronto - Department of Economics ( email )

150 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G7
Canada

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR)

180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario
Canada

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