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10 key ways to predict success in college

Students who succeed in college not only perform well academically but they also "show up" for classes.
Students who succeed in college not only perform well academically but they also "show up" for classes.Nancy Griesemer

According to a report compiled by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), college success is just as much about studying hard as about showing up for class in high school.

Taking the findings of more than 80 research studies, AIR has come up with a series of “indicators, predictors, and other potential factors” targeted to identifying student skills, behaviors, and characteristics that might help parents and educators gauge the likelihood of student success in college.

And this information not only supports the work of college advisers but can also give high school students transitioning to college a “heads up” about what they need to do in order to graduate on time and achieve their educational goals.

According to AIR, “If postsecondary predictors are used collectively, states, districts, and schools can develop self-assessment tools or checklists that can serve as personal tracking guides for students as they progress through school.”

It’s important to note that the research reviewed was “correlational” and not “causal.” In other words, indicators, predictors, and other potential factors should not be considered causes of future outcomes. Instead, these ten factors are more accurately “related” to future success in college:

  • Missing no more than 10 percent of school days per grade level
  • No more than one failure of 9th grade subjects
  • Completing pre-calculus or calculus by the 12th grade
  • 3.0+ high school GPA
  • Scoring a 3 or higher on AP exams or a 4 or higher on IB exam
  • Participation in dual enrollment programming
  • Few school transfers between grades
  • Passing state exams
  • Participation in summer bridge programs, school-year transition courses, and/or early assessment and intervention programs
  • Participation in multiyear college-readiness programs, embedded college counseling and college-readiness lessons

The same study suggests that once enrolled in college, students on the road to success typically complete general education classes without the need for remediation within the first two years of college, attend full time as defined by earning 30 credits within the first year, participate in college orientation programs and extracurricular activities, work less than 15 hours per week, maintain a 3.0 GPA or better, and have high educational expectations.

More information and a list of specific citations are available on the AIR website.