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How to better predict college success

RICE / GEORGIA TECH (US) — Advanced Placement exam scores and certain personality traits, along with standard admission practices, could improve predictions about who’ll finish college.

Phillip Ackerman, a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the study’s lead author, says that the research team hopes university admissions officers consider taking into account what applicants “know,” in addition to their grades and standardized test scores.

“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 says.


The study also reveals that, on average, males and females 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 students in STEM majors,” says Margaret Beier, associate professor of psychology at Rice University and the study’s co-author.

“We’re very interested to know how the role of personality traits 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.”

The study, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, 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 students’ interests and personal characteristics. They also hope that university admissions officers consider taking into account what applicants have learned in their high school elective classes, in addition to their grades and standardized test scores.

Georgia Tech funded the research.

Source: Rice University

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