What Sets College Thrivers and Divers Apart? A Contrast in Study Habits, Attitudes, and Mental Health

29 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2017  

Graham Beattie

University of Pittsburgh

Jean-William Laliberté

University of Calgary - Department of Economics; University of Toronto

Catherine M. Leclerc

University of Toronto

Philip Oreopoulos

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

Date Written: July 2017

Abstract

Students from 4-year colleges often arrive having already done very well in high school, but by the end of first term, a wide dispersion of performance emerges, with an especially large lower tail. Students that do well in first year (we call the top 10 percent Thrivers) tend to continue to do well throughout the rest of their time in university. Students that do poorly (we call the bottom 10 percent Divers) greatly struggle and are at risk of not completing their degree. In this paper we use a mandatory survey with open ended questions asking students about their first-year experience. This allows us to explore more closely what sets Thrivers and Divers apart, in terms of study habits, attitudes, and personal experiences. We find that poor time management and lack of study hours are most associated with poor academic performance, and that those who struggle recognize these weaknesses. Divers also report feeling more depressed and unhappy with their lives. We posit an 'academic trap', whereby initial poor performance is related to poor time management which in turn lowers expectations, which in turn leads to lower study time, and so on. Thrivers, in contrast, study significantly more and meet with course instructors.

Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.

Suggested Citation

Beattie, Graham and Laliberté, Jean-William and M. Leclerc, Catherine and Oreopoulos, Philip, What Sets College Thrivers and Divers Apart? A Contrast in Study Habits, Attitudes, and Mental Health (July 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23588. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3003726

Graham Beattie (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

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

University of Toronto ( email )

Department of Statistical Sciences
Toronto, M5S 3G8
Canada

Catherine M. Leclerc

University of Toronto

Department of Statistical Sciences
Toronto, M5S 3G8
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

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
18
Abstract Views
291
PlumX