Moving beyond GPA: Alternative Measures of Success and Predictive Factors in Honors Programs

By Mould, Tom; DeLoach, Stephen B. | Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Spring-Summer 2017 | Go to article overview

Moving beyond GPA: Alternative Measures of Success and Predictive Factors in Honors Programs


Mould, Tom, DeLoach, Stephen B., Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council


INTRODUCTION

While studies of predictive factors for success in honors have been increasingly creative and expansive on what these factors might include, they have rarely challenged the dominant, virtually monolithic definitions of success. The majority of studies measure success either by collegiate grade point averages (GPAs) or retention rates in honors, which are often contingent on collegiate GPA For years scholars have been calling for a more nuanced and robust definition of success, yet few have taken up the charge, presumably because such data are not readily available. GPAs and retention rates are easy to access and quantify Tracking and quantifying other successes are more difficult but potentially invaluable in helping to better match students and programs.

In the present study, we consider success according to a range of factors: national, local, and campus-wide academic awards; membership in honor societies; presentations at regional, national, or international academic conferences; peer-reviewed academic publications; graduate school attendance; job placements at the time of graduation; leadership roles in extracurricular activities; and faculty mentor assessment. This work suggests that while standardized tests may be marginally useful for making initial invitations to honors programs, high school GPA (HSGPA) is more useful for distinguishing success among high-achieving students Further, HSGPA is at least somewhat predictive not just of collegiate GPA but also of program retention, success in the major, high-quality research, positive mentor evaluation, likelihood of invitation and admittance to national honors societies, and receiving awards However, caution must be taken in using HSGPA to predict success in honors programs. The data indicate that the vast majority of the determinants of collegiate success result from factors that have yet to be measured by honors directors.

PREDICTIVE FACTORS OF SUCCESS

Among College Applicants

One of the most vexing questions for admissions offices at colleges and universities around the country is determining the most effective predictive factors of collegiate success. The relevance of standardized tests has come under particular scrutiny in the past few decades, most notably because of concerns that such tests are biased against underserved populations (see for example Banerji; Linn, Greenwood, and Beatty). Such concerns have prompted some Ivy League schools to become test-optional, no longer requiring standardized test scores to be considered for admission. The question of the effectiveness of standardized tests is complicated by variables such as student demographics that include gender, ethnicity, and academic ability; selectivity of the university; and criteria for measuring success, e.g., first-year collegiate GPA, overall GPA, and graduation rates.

Despite the general skepticism about standardized tests, some of the most extensive studies suggest that standardized tests remain at least marginally effective as predictors of collegiate success. In a study of over one million students, Hezlett et al. found in 2001 that the SAT was a valid predictor of firstyear GPA (cited by Green and Kimbrough 56). These results mirror previous studies that suggest that HSGPA and standardized tests provide moderate prediction of college GPA (CGPA) and retention (Anastasi; Daugherty and Lane; DeBerard, Spielmans, and Julak; Galicki and McEwen; Wolfe and Johnson). In a study of approximately 34,000 students from thirty colleges across the country, "The SAT was found to be as good as or better than HSGPA in predicting high levels of college success" (Kobrin and Michel 6). However, the authors note important caveats when interpreting the results of their study For example, HSGPA was more predictive of success in the least selective schools and more predictive of unsuccessful students than the SAT Most significant for the current study was the finding that "at the highest FGPA (first year CGPA) level (3. …

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