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

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Listed:
  • Graham Beattie
  • Jean-William P. Laliberté
  • Catherine Michaud-Leclerc
  • Philip Oreopoulos

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.

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  • Graham Beattie & Jean-William P. Laliberté & Catherine Michaud-Leclerc & Philip Oreopoulos, 2017. "What Sets College Thrivers and Divers Apart? A Contrast in Study Habits, Attitudes, and Mental Health," NBER Working Papers 23588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23588
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert Metcalfe & Simon Burgess and Steven Proud, 2011. "Student effort and educational attainment: Using the England football team to identify the education production function," Economics Series Working Papers 586, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. Stinebrickner Ralph & Stinebrickner Todd R., 2008. "The Causal Effect of Studying on Academic Performance," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-55, June.
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    4. Philip Oreopoulos & Uros Petronijevic, 2018. "Student Coaching: How Far Can Technology Go?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 53(2), pages 299-329.
    5. Helliwell, John F., 2003. "How's life? Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 331-360, March.
    6. Massimiliano Bratti & Stefano Staffolani, 2013. "Student Time Allocation and Educational Production Functions," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 111-112, pages 103-140.
    7. Jason M. Lindo & Isaac D. Swensen & Glen R. Waddell, 2012. "Are Big-Time Sports a Threat to Student Achievement?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 254-274, October.
    8. Kalenkoski, Charlene Marie & Pabilonia, Sabrina Wulff, 2012. "Time to work or time to play: The effect of student employment on homework, sleep, and screen time," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 211-221.
    9. repec:adr:anecst:y:2013:i:111-112:p:5 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Stephen E. Childs & Ross Finnie & Felice Martinello, 2017. "Postsecondary Student Persistence and Pathways: Evidence From the YITS-A in Canada," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 58(3), pages 270-294, May.
    11. Beattie, Graham & Laliberté, Jean-William P. & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2018. "Thrivers and divers: Using non-academic measures to predict college success and failure," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 170-182.
    12. Andrew Grodner & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2013. "The Role of Homework in Student Learning Outcomes: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(2), pages 93-109, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pugatch, Todd & Wilson, Nicholas, 2018. "Nudging study habits: A field experiment on peer tutoring in higher education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 151-161.
    2. Adam M. Lavecchia & Philip Oreopoulos & Robert S. Brown, 2020. "Long-Run Effects from Comprehensive Student Support: Evidence from Pathways to Education," American Economic Review: Insights, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 209-224, June.
    3. Oreopoulos, Philip & Petronijevic, Uros & Logel, Christine & Beattie, Graham, 2020. "Improving non-academic student outcomes using online and text-message coaching," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 342-360.
    4. Beattie, Graham & Laliberté, Jean-William P. & Oreopoulos, Philip, 2018. "Thrivers and divers: Using non-academic measures to predict college success and failure," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 170-182.
    5. Philip Oreopoulos & Uros Petronijevic, 2019. "The Remarkable Unresponsiveness of College Students to Nudging And What We Can Learn from It," NBER Working Papers 26059, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Rachel Baker & Brent Evans & Qiujie Li & Bianca Cung, 2019. "Does Inducing Students to Schedule Lecture Watching in Online Classes Improve Their Academic Performance? An Experimental Analysis of a Time Management Intervention," Research in Higher Education, Springer;Association for Institutional Research, vol. 60(4), pages 521-552, June.
    7. Oreopoulos, Philip, 2019. "What Limits College Success? A Review and Further Analysis of Holzer and Baum's 'Making College Work'," IZA Policy Papers 150, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Richard L. Wallace & Jess Greenburg & Susan G. Clark, 2020. "Confronting anxiety and despair in environmental studies and sciences: an analysis and guide for students and faculty," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 10(2), pages 148-155, June.
    9. Chux Gervase Iwu, 2020. "Socioeconomic Implications of Examination Fraud and Assessment Irregularities in South Africa’s Higher Education Sector: A Futuristic View," Journal of Social and Development Sciences, AMH International, vol. 10(3), pages 39-46.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General

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