Sunday, September 20, 2015

Self-Reliance, Grit, Success and the Future Self ... Living the American Dream by Continually Going to 'School,' First as a Student and Then as a College Graduate

Why do some kids enter college unprepared to do the work academically and yet still graduate?

And why do some other kids enter college prepared to do the work academically and yet don't graduate?

What is the recipe for success in life, both in college and beyond? And what does an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson titled 'Self-Reliance' and published in 1841 have to teach us about all this?

In my view, success is achieved in any endeavor by following really simple stuff --- grit, persistent hard work, being passionate about reaching our goals (whatever they may be), and resolute self determination.

These habits have more to do with making 'C' students into 'A' students than other single factor. And let's be clear about one thing --- we all begin as 'C' students.

When coupled with a "if you can dream it, you can do it approach," living the American dream is very much in reach of every young American. But first our young dreamer needs to develop both grit and a work plan to become that 'future self.'

The Most Important Factor in a College Student's Success should be required reading for Americans of all ages, including students, parents and educators:

"All around the country right now, college students are moving into dorm rooms and beginning classes for the new academic year—but a distressingly high proportion of these students will not make it all the way through to get their degree.

Though the number of Americans enrolling in college continues to grow, graduation rates remain distressingly low. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 59% of full-time students seeking a bachelor’s degree in 2006 had graduated by 2012.

We worked . . . on a study pointing to a new way of identifying students who are most likely to drop out. . . .

The new analysis found that “mind-set”—a student’s sense of social belonging or grit, for example—is a stronger predictor of whether a student is likely to graduate than previously believed. So powerful, in fact, that it counts even more than external factors like standardized test scores, income levels and whether the student’s parents are college graduates.

In other words, the most important factor in a student’s success is malleable. Income and whether or not your parents went to college can’t be changed. But how someone engages with their work and institutions can.

This research has significant implications on efforts to prevent dropouts and boost graduation rates. It’s also timely. A decade ago, the U.S. ranked seventh globally in educational attainment—that is, years of formal schooling completed—among young adults. It has since fallen to 14th. With an economy increasingly dependent on an educated workforce, we simply can’t afford to continue this slide.

Our study, which surveyed more than 3,500 students, dug deeper into the underlying reasons for why students drop out. A fifth of those surveyed that did not complete their degree cited an inability to afford tuition as the primary cause. And a fourth cited conflicting commitments to a job or family.

But the researchers also discovered that more than 50% of the likelihood that a given student drops out is related to mind-set.

An essential mind-set characteristic is grit, which basically means the willingness to work hard for an extended period in search of a long-term goal. Most problems can be overcome with effort. Talent alone is insufficient for success. Grit measures the ability to continue to persevere day in, day out and power through distractions and failures.

A different body of research from Angela Lee Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania tracked thousands of Chicago public school juniors and found that grit levels were directly tied to graduation rates, even controlling for family circumstances, standardized test scores and individual intelligence.

Likewise, a student’s sense of belonging at their institution is a strong predictor of their eventual success–stronger, in fact, than conventionally accepted factors like high-school G.P.A. or whether a student’s parents went to college. The first semester of school can be intensely isolating, particularly for low-income, minority and first-generation college students who may have fewer immediate social or emotional supports to help them through the process of planting roots in a new community.

A growing number of intervention programs that aim to improve student mind-sets are dramatically boosting graduation rates and demonstrating how we can close achievement gaps—and at surprisingly low costs. . . .

This new body of thinking reveals an important truth about improving college graduation rates: Students might not be able to influence the structural barriers that stand in their way, but they can alter their mind-sets. And by cultivating specific frames of mind, educators can empower students—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—to withstand the inevitable difficulties of postsecondary education and earn the reward that can transform their future: a college degree."

Summing Up

What matters most in life is not what happens to us, but rather how we react to those happenings.  Although we can't always control external events, we can always control our reactions and emotions to those events. We can choose to live our lives on our own terms.

Practicing self control, keeping our eyes on the prize, and believing in ourselves and our capabilities aren't new concepts.

But these common sense based teachings aren't being followed nearly enough in today's 'victims' and 'villains' world.

This perceived modern 'victims' and 'villains' world of dumbing down everything and giving everybody an 'A' or passing grade in whatever it is that is being graded is harmful to all Americans, and especially the poor.

Keenan mentioned Emerson's 1841 essay on 'Self-Reliance' in his latest post, and that essay is very much worth reading in its entirety. It is easily accessed by 'googling' or 'binging' and then taking the brief time required to read it. Emerson's timeless and common sense essay is full of life lessons for all, including teachers, parents, students and taxpayers.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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