Study Cites Non-Academic Factors as Predictors of College Success
Washington--High-school rank and test scores are still the best predictors of academic success in college, but other evidence may better predict a student's overall personal achievement on campus, according to a new study by the College Board and the Educational Testing Service.
In particular, the study found that students who put sustained effort into one or two extracurricular activities while in high school are4more likely to succeed in areas such as campus leadership and independent accomplishment than students who do not.
Extracurricular involvement cannot substitute for academic standing, the study said, but other factors being equal, it can help predict overall college success.
Results of the seven-year study, published in a book called Success in College: The Role of Personal Qualities and Academic Ability, were released at a press conference here last week.
The study followed the careers of 3,767 students from their application to college through graduation.
Committees at each of nine participating colleges developed definitions of success and then identified the "most successful" among the 3,767 students.
The study found that, in making their selections, schools placed almost equal emphasis on scholarship, leadership, and individual achievement. And, among students selected as successful in any of the three areas, those with strong extracurricular records in high school were found to be over-represented by 20 to 30 percent, even after school rank and test scores were taken into account.
Well-written personal statements on college-admissions applications, strong references from teachers and guidance counselors, and high-school honors were also cited as helpful indicators for predicting overall success in college.
But the value of college-admissions interviews as predictors was negligible, the study found.
An enormous amount of time and energy goes into such interviews, said Warren W. Willingham, author of the study and a research psychologist at the ets But in his view, he said, "interview impressions should be kept separate from admissions decisions."
David Perham, dean of admissions at Colgate University and chairman of the project's steering committee, characterized such interviews as ''a kind of whimsical match between two strangers for a half hour to 40 minutes."
He said a growing number of colleges are discounting the interview for admissions purposes. Students, he added, should regard such interviews as an opportunity to gain information about a "$50,000 investment," not as an anxiety-provoking event.
Other measures found to be poor predictors of college success included work experience while in high school, parents' level of education, and type of secondary school--either public or private--attended.
George H. Hanford, president of the College Board, said that in time postsecondary institutions may be able to quantify non-academic measures such as extracurricular activities to make them more useful in admissions decisions.
The student questionnaire accompanying the Scholastic Aptitude and Advanced Placement Tests, said Mr. Hanford, reflects some of those indicators. But the board does not quantify these results for colleges and has no immediate plans to do so, he said.
Mr. Hanford added that researchers still have made little progress in the use of "personality tests" to predict college success.
The nine colleges participating in the College Board-ets study were Bucknell University, Colgate University, Hartwick College, Kalamazoo College, Kenyon College, Occidental College, Ohio-Wesleyan University, the University of Richmond, and Williams College.
Copies of Success in College are available for $16.95 in paperback and $26.95 in hardback from College Board Publications, P.O. Box 886, New York, N.Y. 10101.