Executive Functioning Skills, College, and Career Readiness

Learning

For the purpose of making the case, it is helpful to open this article by presenting a biological perspective. Sociologist find it important to define Nature (biological) and Nurture (environmental). The Nature versus Nurture perspectives of human development have been an unrelenting debate between natural and social scientists for decades.  Even though there will be comparing and contrasting as it relates to the differing points of view of nature/nurture, the purpose of this article is not to defend either side.  Instead, an attempt to simply describe and explain several dimensions of learning and intelligence will be the focus. Each one of the dimensions will be defined before elaborating on the two dimensions of interest.  The six dimensions are as follows:

  1. Physiological process: Having the ability to acquire information and achieve operates on a biological stage of cells, circuits, and chemical in the brain (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).  The brain has infinite ability for processing new and old information.  The human brain and body are the same.  One does not exist without the other.  The brain craves plenty of valuable nutritional care and exposure to social experiences (Dickman & Standford-Blair, 2009).
  2. Social process: As millions of years passed, human’s brain became rich in social experiences and instincts.  The human brain demands attention and belonging to other socialized brains. Social nature allows for memory, language, empathy, sympathy, collaboration, and reasoning. The social component of the brain is expectant, dependent, extended, and oriented to virtue (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  3. Emotional Process: This part of the brain focuses on attention, judgment, motivation, and reasoning. These are considered changes in the mind and body. Additional changes to be considered are fear, madness, happiness, and enjoyment are all associated with the emotional process (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  4. Constructive process: the ability to take in new information and use it to your advantage.  The brain embraces patterns for assembling meaning to the incoming information.  The constructed information is habitually and emotionally assessed to see if it is valuable (Dickman, Standford-Blair, & Rosati-Bojar, 2004).
  5. Reflective process: this is a very interesting makeup of the brain.  The brain has the ability to be manipulative, authoritative, collaborative or unifying, as well as promising.  Reflection manipulates information and check choices prior to taking action. Having the ability to be reflective allows the brain to problem solve, socially interact, and make decisions (Dickman & Standford-Blair, 2004).
  6. Dispositional process: the ever amazing brain has the capacity to display its intelligence abilities in a way that is macro, mandatory, and maximizing or minimizing.  The brain is capable of taking on macro patterns of thinking.  Thinking dispositions are biological in nature but advance through social experiences or environmental factors.  Man ability to think, acquire new information, and make new advances is realized to the level to which there is a productive disposition in the driver’s seat (Dickman, Blair, & Bojar, 2004).

The six dimensions described above are all important as it relates to intelligence and learning, nevertheless, I will focus on Physiological and Social nature of learning.  These particular processes of intelligence motivate me to learn more just as the brain intended, always in search of additional knowledge.  The more the brain adsorbs the more the brain is driven to absorb.

There is another part of the hemisphere I am concerned about known as the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is of importance due to the executive functioning of the frontal  lobe which is able to anticipate future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good, bad, better, best, deny inappropriate social actions, as well as, measure similarities and differences.  The frontal lobe impacts critical thinking, problem solving, and complex reasoning (Dickman, Blair, & Bojar, 2004).  Now that I have described the functions of the frontal lobes, I will focus my attention on Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and weak Executive Functioning Skills.

Executive Functioning Skills

First, it is important for me to point out, my wife and I are educated parents of two young men. Educated parents who do not believe in snake oil remedies. Though both of our boys are great young men ages 17 and 21, one of our boys was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors.  Research shows that those with ADHD have abnormalities in how the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine work to facilitate communication between neurons and activation of various brain functions. Differences in the communication route related to reward and consequence, a pathway involving dopamine activity (Volkow, et al, 2009) have been found to be particularly problematic in the brains of individuals with ADHD, as have brain networks involved in the engagement and regulation of attention. Disruptions in serotonin levels and activity may also play a role, particularly in affecting the modulation and regulation of the dopamine system.  There are skeptics who say ADHD does not exist. If ADHD does not exist, well I have no idea as to what my son and family have dealt with starting from kindergarten through grade 15th and most of all I guess Dobermans fly. Not only does it exist, its functions are in the frontal lobe of the brain. It is important for me to point out we are educated parents and have a more than average educational status with health care, dental, and vision insurance. I mentioned my status for the purpose of providing clarity. In other words, we have been blessed to provide the very best as parents and provide them with the best supports when needed. When we did not have the answers or concerns, we sought help. Skeptics also say ADD & ADHD are all due to poor parenting or uneducated parents. Well, we are not uneducated and though not perfect I would like to think our parenting skills were/are pretty good.

An exceptionally large portion of school age children suffer from poor executive functioning skills. Executive functions are found in the frontal lobe of the brain.  This is valuable information for all educators to understand. Understanding students’ disorders which may impact students’ academic performance and overall behavior, mandate teachers to know the readiness levels of their students for the purpose of differentiating classwork, homework, and understanding the whole child. Executive Functional Skills are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal.  “It is an umbrella term for the neurologically based skills involving mental control and self-regulation” (Kahn, & Dietzel, 2008, p. 10).

Dr. Gioia (2002), has identified and defined eight executive functioning skills that are essential to everyone, everyday, and every working moment.  Executive Functioning Skills are as follows:

  1. Inhibition—The capability to prohibit one’s own behavior at any giving time, this include avoiding inappropriate actions and thinking. However, there is another side to inhibition known as impulsivity.  If you have poor ability to prevent yourself from action on your impulses you are considered “impulsive” (Gioia, 2002).
  2. Shift—The ability to move at will from situation to another while behaving appropriately to the situation (Gioia, 2002).
  3. Emotional Control—Having the capacity to modulate emotional responses by bringing rational thought to bear on feelings (Gioia, 2002).
  4. Initiation— The ability to initiate a task or and to individually generate thoughts, responses, and problem-solving techniques (Gioia, 2002).
  5. Working Memory—Capacity to retain and recall information in order to follow through on a task (Gioia, 2002).
  6. Planning/Organization—The ability to oversee present and future-oriented task demands (Gioia, 2002).
  7. Organizational of Materials—Having the ability to be orderly on work, play, and storage spaces (Gioia, 2002).
  8. Self-Monitoring–The ability to measure self’s performance and to compare it against some standard of what is needed or expected (Gioia, 2002).

When students suffer from weak executive functioning skills as a result of nature, all responsible for educating the child in a given year, should be aware of the students’ disorder, disabilities, strengths, or weaknesses in order to effectively educate students.  For example, Differentiated Instruction is a research-based framework that puts a huge amount of attention on variance and diversity.  Differentiated Instruction is designed to properly meet students at their readiness level and nurture their learning towards the intended targets. Every hour on the hour, teachers are to be aware there are different groups of mixed-ability learners.  Therefore, superintendents, administrators, teachers and other stakeholders must ensure instructions are consistently adjusted to meet students’ readiness level (Tomlinson, 2000).  This is a non-negotiable.  Nevertheless, this can only happen if strong leadership is presence at the building and district level. To promote consistent and balanced effectiveness of “How we teach,” district and building administrators must allow for professional development, implementation of research-based strategies such as “Differentiated Instruction” and “Response to Intervention practices in each and every classroom, and ongoing collaboration with colleagues. Many times the collaboration opportunities must include teachers modeling proven techniques for one another.  Effective teachers should be knowledgeable of their subject matter and have the ability to use an array of instructional strategies to adhere to students’ culture and learning styles (Stronge, 2007). It is imperative for educators to adhere to students who suffer from disorders associated with the frontal lobe matters such as Attention Deficit Disorder or processing of information.  District administrators should regularly equip building principals with professional development that focuses on current research-based strategies which enables administrators to work with their entire building staff.  If students with Tourette are considered, it is important to know 70% of students who suffer from Tourette have other concerns such as learning disabilities, processing or ADHD.  More than not, boys tend to suffer from ADD as well as suffer from weak executive functioning skills and in many cases girls go unnoticed when there are concerns, because girls tend to be less active (Kahn, & Dietzel, 2008).  I find this to be valuable knowledge and information that should be used by administrators and teachers in order to meet students were they are both academically and socially.

The Social nature of intelligence is the next of six dimensions I care to expound upon.  The majority of learning comes from observation of others.  The brain has a craving to be social with other like brains.  Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do.  Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guided for action however, difficult for many students (Bandura, 1977, p. 22). These are only a few examples to describe the importance of social nature of intelligence.

Expectations of College

College can be the best four years of one’s life, however, it is a time when students must adapt to obscure situations filled with new challenges and barriers. This transition separates students from their childhood friends. Students are forced into challenging new task, roles, routines, and relationships. It is time for students to put into practice all of the social skills, norms, and expectations taught by their immediate family, because college life allows for more freedom, independence, and responsibility.

Students who suffer with weak executive functioning skills such as organization, working memory, planning, and self-monitoring will have an extremely difficult time in high school and this is especially true when attending college away from home.  Therefore, it is important for students with such concerns to disclose this information to the university staff. The majority of postsecondary systems take a Response to Intervention approach. However, colleges consider students to be adults and cannot mandate students to take advantage of the interventions provided by colleges. Students who suffer from weak executive skills tend to not reach their full potential if they do not take advantage of such offerings and opportunities by improving their weak EFSs and many consistently fail at task. This failure could also lead to learned helplessness and students may drop out of school. Therefore, superintendents, administrators, teachers, parents, colleges, and the community are all necessary elements for educating all, despite disabilities or disorders.  Cortese (2007, p. 1) states, “If we truly want to close the achievement gap we have to find ways to make sure children get a better-than-average education.”  I totally agree with Cortese.  I also understand this nurturing begins with parents, community, educators, and the CEO of the district.

Make no mistake about it, students who suffer from weak executive functioning skills should continue to work on their skills beyond college. The great news is there are interventions and strategies to help with these concerns.  If students disregard improving their skills, it is possible for students to have problems on their jobs and throughout their careers. Poor planning, lack of organization, and weak emotional control can very well lead to departure from school and jobs.

As parents who have a child who deals with ADHD, I find it important to enlighten others who have children dealing with the same concerns or similar concerns. As the adult it’s important to help your child with improving weak executive functioning skills. Parents must be organized and consistently clear for understanding. Work with experts and counselors who will provide the child and family members with strategies that help the child succeed. Family members must continue to be there as long as needed.  Finally, keep your child’s school and teachers in the know, especially if there have been noticeable changes in your student’s behavior or academic performance.

References

Bandura, A. (1997). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Calvin, W. H. (1996). How brains think: Evolving intelligence, then and now. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Cooper-Kahn, J., & Dietzel, L. (2008). Late, lost, and unprepared: A parent’s guide to helping children with executive functioning. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.

Cortese, A. (2007). Get real: Here’s the boost that poor children, their teachers, and their schools really need. Retreived January 5, 2012 form www.aft.org/news

Dickman, M., & Standford-Blair, N. (2009). Mindful leadership: A brain-based framework.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Dickman, M., Standford-Blair, N., & Rosati-Bojar, A. (2004). Leading with the brain in mind: 101  brain-compatible practices for leaders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Gioia, G. (2002). New perspectives on educating children with adhd: Contributions of the executive functions. Journal of Health Care Law & Policy, (5), 124-163.

Mithen, S. (1996). The prehistory of the mind: The cognitive origins of art, religion, and science.  London: Thames & Hudson.

Parent, A., & Carpenter, M.B. (1995). Human neuroanatomy.  Baltimore, MD: Wilkns & Williams.

Sherer, M. (2001). How and why standards can improve student achievement: A conversation  with Rober Marzano.” Education Leadership (September 2001): 14-18.

Stronge, J. (2007). Qualities of effective teachers. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2000).  Reconcilable differences: Standards-based teaching and differentiation. Educational Leadership, 58(1), 6-11.

The Importance of Non-Academic Factors and College Readiness

Most parents, dream of their children’s graduation from college and successful careers, this is especially true for parents who have not attended any higher education institutions (Conley, 2010). Parents rely on high schools to provide the academic preparation necessary for college success. However, high school graduation does not necessarily equate with college readiness. Many students are not prepared for success in college (ACT, 2012).

It’s well established that GPA, rigorous course completing, and American College Testing (ACT) scores greatly impact students’ college preparedness and students’ ability to meet first year of college demands.  These are known as academic factors. Though academic factors are extremely important, this article is for the purpose of providing insight on Non-Academic Factors that improve college preparedness as well as retention beyond the first year of college.

High School to Post-Secondary

The transition to post-secondary institutions is a huge life change for all students. (Tinto, 1993). In his theoretical model, Tinto (1993) focuses on several predictors of retention and success in college.  Academic and nonacademic preparation during K-12 and adjusting to college life are more likely to predict students who drop out of college during their freshman year. Students drop out for many reasons such as a lack of financial aid, being unprepared for college therefore students cannot meet academic rigor, personal reasons, and inability to adapt to their chosen institution.

Tinto (1993) suggests that “college ready” transition to college is categorized under Academic and Non-Academic adjustments. Academic adjustment enables students to grasp at least minimum standards regarding academic performance. Non-academic indicators include, social integration, becoming actively involved, and building relationships with faculty, psychological and physical stability and individual’s ability to fit with the institution, and a sense of belonging. College can be the best four years of one’s life, however, it is a time when students must adapt to obscure situations filled with new challenges and barriers. This transition separates students from their childhood friends. Students are forced into challenging new task, roles, routines, and relationships. It is time for students to put into practice all of the social skills, norms, and expectations taught by their immediate family, because college life allows for more freedom, independence, and responsibility. As a result of this transition, identity transformation also takes place, which forces students to choose their own actions. Therefore, it is imperative for the universities to implement interventions that are designed to serve the well-being of students, which enhance retention. Non-academic factors are just as important as academic factors. Social integration and college support are imperative components for student’s endurance (Tinto, 1975, 1993). Tinto disclosed that less than 25% of students who dropout from postsecondary schools, are related to academic problems. Majority of students cut ties due to failure with integration. Students become unhappy with college life expectancies and develop feelings of isolation. Tinto’s Longitudinal model of Departure describes an “interactive model of student departure” (p. 112) and as “primarily sociological in character” (p. 113). Tinto (1987) put forward as a basis of argument that students prior to college experiences such as psychological skills, family background, secondary schooling, impacts student goals and resilience. As a result, students’ goals influence university experiences

Non-Academic Factors

The author’s areas of focus for this article are Non-Academic factors.  Non-Academic factors are seldom acknowledged when considering whether or not a student is college ready.  Consequently, non-academic factors can be strong predictors as it relates to preparing students to persevere through rigorous coursework and calculated expectations of postsecondary institutions. School districts more than not, solely focus on Academic factors such as rigorous coursework completion, HSGPA, and ACT scores and never consider other factors associated with students’ college preparedness. Non-academic factors such as students’ confidence, self-motivation, finances, social support, family support, and some researchers would say the most important non-academic factor is social integration. Social Integration is considered a postsecondary student’s ability to connect with others through joining organizations, meeting and building relationships with new positive friends, and developing friendships with college employees (Tinto, 1975). These practices reduce the chances of students feeling home sick or a sense of loneliness.  Both contribute to students dropping out of college.

All students who enter college have gone through K-12 exposed to contrasting experiences. Research findings by Stupinsky, Renaud, Perry, Ruthig, Haynes, and Clifton (2007) suggest individual differences have a major impact on students’ post-secondary achievement. Adaptability, endurance, motivation, self-efficacy, self-control, mindset and self-regulation leverage how students react to academic expectations of college, college life expectations, and transitioning.  Mind-sets are the attitudes, beliefs, and emotions students have about themselves and schooling (Dweck, 2006; Walton, & Cohen, 2011). Examples include engagement, motivation, self-efficacy, and persistence (Robbins et al., 2004).

Academic preparedness cannot live in isolation. Students who complete AP courses, score high on ACT/SAT, and earn high grade point averages are less likely to drop-out of college due to poor academic performance. Instead, dropping out is possibly due to their inability to integrate socially as well as not being motivated by their college selection.  First year students who join orientation programs have a higher success rate in college opposed to students who do not participate in such social clubs. Research findings also suggest students who were admitted to colleges with a low ACT score and grade point average but yet had strong social connections and supports, had much better graduation success (Schnell, 2003). These findings also “suggest students’ entering characteristics play an important role in persistence to graduation, but potential for success can be increased with the addition of first-year programs” (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004, p. 14).  Furthermore, research results support the notion that when schools consider pre-college academic strength such as GPA, ACT scores, and non-academic predictors students’ performance increases and the same can be said for their sustainability through rigorous post-secondary years.  ACT (2010; 2012) research shows that differences in college success across racial/ethnic and income groups narrow when students have the requisite academic achievement and relevant nonacademic skills (Robbins, 2004; 2006).  

Alliance of Academic and Non-Academic Factors

College retention programs can do a better job of retaining students by combining both academic and non-academic factors. The most compelling alliance to retention happens when academic and the most important non-academic factors are parallel to each other (Asera, 1998; O’Brien & Shed, 2001; Tucker, 1999). Many students with poor academic performance still endure the rigor of college due to their social integration and feelings of belonging with their chosen college. Universities that implement programs that embraces mentoring and support groups into their school’s mission, enhances levels of student involvement, motivation, and academic self-confidence. As a result, students ultimately remain committed to the institution (Padgett & Reid, 2003). Interventions will help keep students actively engaged as well as help students meet the expectations of academia and college life transitions.

 

References

ACT, Inc. (2010). The condition of college and career readiness. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.www.libproxy.wvu.edu/ehost/

ACT, Inc. (2012). Creating your explore and plan: Road map to student success. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/education/benchmarks.html

Asera, R. (1998). Supporting student persistence. Black Issues in Higher Education, 15(10), 104.

Conley, D. T. (2010). College and career ready: Helping all students succeed beyond high school. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

DeBerard, M. S., Speilmans, G. I., & Julka, D. (2004). Predictors of academic achievement and retention among college freshmen: A longitudinal study. College Student Journal, 38(1), 66-80.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine.

Lotkowski, V., Robbins, S., & Noeth, R. (2004). The role of academic and non-academic factors in improving college retention. ACT, Inc.

Padgett, V. R., & Reid, J. F., Jr. (2003). Five-year evaluation of the student diversity program: A Retrospective quasi-experiment. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 4(2), 135-145.

Stupinsky, R. H., Renaud, R. D., Perry, R. P., Ruthig, J. C., Haynes, T. L. & Clifton, R. A., (2007). Comparing self-esteem and perceived control as predictors of first-year college students’ academic achievement. Social Psychology of Education, 10, 303-330. doi: 10.1007/s11218-007-9020-4

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125.

Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (1988). Stages of student departure: Reflections on the longitudinal characteristics of students leaving. Journal of Higher Education, 59, 438-455.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (2012). Moving from theory to action: A model of institutional action for student success. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention: Formula for student success (pp. 255-256). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves

academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science Magazine, 331, 1447-1451

Wimberly, G. L., & Noeth, R. J. (2005). College readiness begins in middle school. ACT policy report. Ames, IA: ACT, Inc.

The Importance of Non-Academic Factors and College Readiness

Most parents, dream of their children’s graduation from college and successful careers, this is especially true for parents who have not attended any higher education institutions (Conley, 2010). Parents rely on high schools to provide the academic preparation necessary for college success. However, high school graduation does not necessarily equate with college readiness. Many students are not prepared for success in college (ACT, 2012).

It’s well established that GPA, completing rigorous coursework , and high American College Testing (ACT) scores greatly impact students’ college preparedness and students’ ability to meet first year of college demands.  These are known as academic factors. Though academic factors are extremely important, this article is for the purpose of providing insight into Non-Academic Factors that improve college preparedness as well as retention beyond the first year of college.

High School to Post-Secondary

The transition to post-secondary institutions is a huge life change for all students. (Tinto, 1993). In his theoretical model, Tinto (1993) focuses on several predictors of retention and success in college.  Academic and nonacademic preparation during K-12 and adjusting to college life are more likely to predict students who drop out of college during their freshman year. Students drop out for many reasons such as a lack of financial aid, being unprepared for college therefore students cannot meet academic rigor, personal reasons, and inability to adapt to their chosen institution.

Tinto (1993) suggests that “college ready” transition to college is categorized under Academic and Non-Academic adjustments. Academic adjustment enables students to grasp at least minimum standards regarding academic performance. Non-academic indicators include, social integration, becoming actively involved, and building relationships with faculty, psychological and physical stability and individual’s ability to fit with the institution, and a sense of belonging. College can be the best four years of one’s life, however, it is a time when students must adapt to obscure situations filled with new challenges and barriers. This transition separates students from their childhood friends. Students are forced into challenging new task, roles, routines, and relationships. It is time for students to put into practice all of the social skills, norms, and expectations taught by their immediate family, because college life allows for more freedom, independence, and responsibility. As a result of this transition, identity transformation also takes place, which forces students to choose their own actions. Therefore, it is imperative for the universities to implement interventions that are designed to serve the well-being of students, which enhance retention. Non-academic factors are just as important as academic factors. Social integration and college support are imperative components for student’s endurance (Tinto, 1975, 1993). Tinto disclosed that less than 25% of students who dropout from postsecondary schools, are related to academic problems. Majority of students cut ties due to failure with integration. Students become unhappy with college life expectancies and develop feelings of isolation. Tinto’s Longitudinal model of Departure describes an “interactive model of student departure” (p. 112) and as “primarily sociological in character” (p. 113). Tinto (1987) put forward as a basis of argument that students prior to college experiences such as psychological skills, family background, secondary schooling, impact students’ goals and resilience. As a result, students’ goals influence university experiences.

Non-Academic Factors                                                                                              

The author’s areas of focus for this article are Non-Academic factors.  Non-Academic factors are seldom acknowledged when considering whether or not a student is college ready.  Consequently, non-academic factors can be strong predictors as it relates to preparing students to persevere through rigorous coursework and calculated expectations of postsecondary institutions. School districts more than not, solely focus on Academic factors such as rigorous coursework completion, high school grade point average (HSGPA), and ACT scores and never consider other factors associated with students’ college preparedness. Non-academic factors such as students’ confidence, self-motivation, finances, social support, family support, and some researchers would say the most important non-academic factor is social integration. Social Integration is considered a postsecondary student’s ability to connect with others through joining organizations, meeting and building relationships with new positive friends, and developing friendships with college employees (Tinto, 1975). These practices reduce the chances of students feeling home sick or a sense of loneliness.  Both contribute to students dropping out of college.

All students who enter college have gone through K-12 exposed to contrasting experiences. Research findings by Stupinsky, Renaud, Perry, Ruthig, Haynes, and Clifton (2007) suggest individual differences have a major impact on students’ post-secondary achievement. Adaptability, endurance, motivation, self-efficacy, self-control, mindset and self-regulation leverage how students react to academic expectations of college, college life expectations, and transitioning.  Mind-sets are the attitudes, beliefs, and emotions students have about themselves and schooling (Dweck, 2006; Walton, & Cohen, 2011). Examples include engagement, motivation, self-efficacy, and persistence (Robbins et al., 2004).

Academic preparedness cannot live in isolation. Students who complete AP courses, score high on ACT/SAT, and earn high grade point averages are less likely to drop-out of college due to poor academic performance. Instead, dropping out is possibly due to their inability to integrate socially as well as not being motivated by their college selection.  First year students who join orientation programs have a higher success rate in college opposed to students who do not participate in such social clubs. Research findings also suggest students who were admitted to colleges with a low ACT score and grade point average but yet had strong social connections and supports, had much better graduation success (Schnell, 2003). These findings also “suggest students’ entering characteristics play an important role in persistence to graduation, but potential for success can be increased with the addition of first-year programs” (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004, p. 14).  Furthermore, research results support the notion that when schools consider pre-college academic strength such as GPA, ACT scores, and non-academic predictors students’ performance increases and the same can be said for their sustainability through rigorous post-secondary years.  ACT (2010; 2012) research shows that differences in college success across racial/ethnic and income groups narrow when students have the requisite academic achievement and relevant nonacademic skills (Robbins, 2004; 2006).

Alliance of Academic and Non-Academic Factors

College retention programs can do a better job of retaining students by combining both academic and non-academic factors. The most compelling alliance to retention happens when academic and the most important non-academic factors are parallel to each other (Asera, 1998; O’Brien & Shed, 2001; Tucker, 1999). Many students with poor academic performance still endure the rigor of college due to their social integration and feelings of belonging with their chosen college. Universities that implement programs that embrace mentoring and support groups into their school’s mission, enhances levels of student involvement, motivation, and academic self-confidence. Consequently, students ultimately remain committed to the institution (Padgett & Reid, 2003). Interventions will help keep students actively engaged as well as help students meet the expectations of academia and college life transitions.

References

ACT, Inc. (2010). The condition of college and career readiness. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.www.libproxy.wvu.edu/ehost/

ACT, Inc. (2012). Creating your explore and plan: Road map to student success. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/education/benchmarks.html

Asera, R. (1998). Supporting student persistence. Black Issues in Higher Education, 15(10), 104.

Conley, D. T. (2010). College and career ready: Helping all students succeed beyond high school. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

DeBerard, M. S., Speilmans, G. I., & Julka, D. (2004). Predictors of academic achievement and retention among college freshmen: A longitudinal study. College Student Journal, 38(1), 66-80.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine.

Lotkowski, V., Robbins, S., & Noeth, R. (2004). The role of academic and non-academic factors in improving college retention. ACT, Inc.

Padgett, V. R., & Reid, J. F., Jr. (2003). Five-year evaluation of the student diversity program: A Retrospective quasi-experiment. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 4(2), 135-145.

Stupinsky, R. H., Renaud, R. D., Perry, R. P., Ruthig, J. C., Haynes, T. L. & Clifton, R. A., (2007). Comparing self-esteem and perceived control as predictors of first-year college students’ academic achievement. Social Psychology of Education, 10, 303-330. doi: 10.1007/s11218-007-9020-4

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125.

Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (1988). Stages of student departure: Reflections on the longitudinal characteristics of students leaving. Journal of Higher Education, 59, 438-455.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (2012). Moving from theory to action: A model of institutional action for student success. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention: Formula for student success (pp. 255-256). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science Magazine, 331, 1447-1451

Wimberly, G. L., & Noeth, R. J. (2005). College readiness begins in middle school. ACT policy report. Ames, IA: ACT, Inc.