Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Who Is the Successful University Student? an Analysis of Personal Resources

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Who Is the Successful University Student? an Analysis of Personal Resources

Article excerpt

In today's society, there is increasing pressure on young adults to attain post-secondary and higher levels of education. This is due in part to the ever-increasing educational requirements for entry-level career positions and promotional opportunities (Bain, Fedynich, & Knight, 2011; Parker, Saklofske, Wood, & Collin, 2009). However, between 16% and 21% of Canadian post-secondary students fail to complete their studies (Statistics Canada, 2008). Furthermore, many institutions report that up to a quarter of their firstyear students do not return to continue their studies for a second year (Pancer, Hunsberger, Pratt, & Alisat, 2000). The economic and social consequences of post-secondary students' failure are undeniable. Students who do not complete post-secondary programs or are required to withdraw from university are often limited in their job prospects, earning potential, and lifestyles.

University administrators and policy makers need an efficient way to identify students at risk of early leaving or failing but also to build on their knowledge of student success. A better system for identifying students in need of extra supports would be beneficial for fostering program development for ensuring student retention and success and for improving institutional quality ratings. As well, accurately identifying student needs and risk factors can lead to individualized and specific intervention programs with lifelong positive consequences for all students.

Transitioning from high school to post-secondary learning places significant and novel demands on young people (Tinto, 1993). These adjustment challenges can be stressful for new students (Noel, Levitz, & Saluri, 1985). The demand for higher levels of independence, initiative, and self-regulation (Bryde & Milburn, 1990) can be especially difficult for those students when beginning their journey into university life. This would suggest that the need to effectively assist these students is especially evident at the personal level (Parker et al., 2009). Further, by understanding the personal characteristics underlying student success and failure, academic advisors and counsellors can use more individualized approaches to pinpoint student areas of strength and weakness as well as build a more supportive and success-oriented environment.

Pre-college factors, such as high school averages and SAT scores, have been linked to college grade point average (GPA) (e.g., Friedman & Mandel, 2009; Gaskins, 2009) and intent to persist in post-secondary education (e.g., Moses et al., 2011). Thus, it seems obvious that students' academic behaviour, such as attending class and developing effective study skills, would be strongly predictive of success in university. Academic discipline (Allen, Robbins, Casillas, & Oh, 2008), academic optimism (Solberg Nes, Evans, & Segerstrom, 2009), course performance (Zlokovich et al., 2003), and attempting a full course load (Attewell, Heil, & Reisel, 2012) have all been found to contribute to higher GPAs and degree completing. Students who do not persist into their second year of studies often have lower academic resourcefulness skills (Kennett & Reed, 2009) while those who procrastinate (Seo, 2012), have poor time management skills (Haarala-Muhonen, Ruohoniemi, & Lindblom-Ylanne, 2011), and are distracted in class (Junco & Cotton, 2012) tend to have lower grades. Fortunately, research suggests that specific interventions aimed at setting personal academic goals (Morisano, Hirsh, Peterson, Pihl, & Shore, 2010) and exam preparation and study skills (Noble, Flynn, Lee, & Hilton, 2007; Strayhorn, 2011) can help to remediate academic behaviour and contribute to higher GPAs. Institutional factors are also important in relation to students' perceptions of themselves and their learning environments. Feelings of disconnect and disengagement can ultimately lead to students wanting to leave school (Lundquist, Spalding, & Landrum, 2002; Allen & Smith, 2008; Harms, Roberts & Winter, 2006). …

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