Work habits separate thrivers from divers in college success

Why do students who did well in high school fail in college? Good work habits distinguish “thrivers” from “divers,” concludes a University of Toronto study reported in the Washington Post.

New college students predicted they’d earn grade-point averages of 3.6, but averaged only 2.2 at the end of their first year.  Students with similar high school records had very different college outcomes.

Researchers analyzed “thrivers,” who did much better than their high school grades predicted, and “divers,” who did much worse. Most had been average students in high school: In college, the thrivers got A’s while the divers got F’s.

Divers were short on “conscientiousness.”

Compared with the average student, divers were less likely to describe themselves as organized or detail-oriented, less likely to say that they are prepared, that they follow a schedule or that they get work done right away. Divers were also more likely to say they crammed for exams and more likely to score highly on measures of impatience.

. . . Compared with the divers, the thrivers planned to study three additional hours a week, on average.

Some “personality traits, such as agreeableness (being kind and empathetic toward others), openness to new ideas (being imaginative and curious) or emotional stability (not being anxious or easily upset), did not appear to matter much in determining whether people were thrivers or divers,” writes Jeff Guo.

Work and study habits mattered a lot.

When Mom and Dad supervise schedules, homework and bed times, and teachers enforce attendance, students may earn decent grades without learning how to manage their time. Then they go to college and they’re lost.

This post originally appeared on joannejacobs.com

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Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs

Joanne was born in Chicago and named after her grandfather, Joe Jacobs, who’d been a police reporter for the Omaha Bee-News. At the age of eight, she and her best friend became the creators and co-editors-in-chief of "The Wednesday Report" for four years. After years as a San Jose Mercury News columnist, Joanne started an education blog in 2001 and wrote "Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds." She freelances for online sites, newspapers, magazines, foundations and think tanks. In addition to blogging at joannejacobs.com, Joanne writes Community College Spotlight at ccspotlight.org.

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