Admission into college is a great achievement for your child; however, it is the beginning of an obstacle course for completion.  According to an article on the Science Daily website, researchers have found that a student’s reason for going to college has a direct bearing on his or her academic success.  The study, whose outcomes are based on surveying subjects from a two-year community college and a four-year liberal arts college, “was the first comprehensive study to examine these relationships using a large sample of college students across multiple institutions.”  In addition to completing an online survey to document demographic information, subjects provided information about their inner motivation as outlined by Self-Determination Theory and how that impacts their academic performance:

  • The degree to which they attended college to fulfill needs for autonomy (to study areas of interest),
  • Competence (to test and challenge their abilities), or
  • Relatedness (to establish close, secure relationships with others)

The findings confirmed the following outcomes:

  • Students who attend college to fulfill needs for autonomy and competence, two core components of intrinsic motivation, tended to have higher grades and intentions to persist
  • However, student socioeconomic status affected these relationships.
  • For students of high socioeconomic status, studying subjects to fulfill their needs for autonomy and competence was more important to them than with low-income students.
  • Low-income students tended to be more influenced by a need to improve their financial situation.
  • Altruism—the motivation to attend college to give back to one’s community—is a more powerful intrinsic motivator for students of color than for white students, and those students of color tended to be more motivated to perform well academically than their white counterparts who expressed the same motivation.
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