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Advice From 2 Million Students

December 7, 2016

In our work with more than 100 colleges and universities, we have analyzed the experiences of more than 2 million students. And while no two journeys are exactly the same, today’s students can learn a lot from those who came just before them.


Here are five key findings from our data that might help you or the student in your life make the grade in college.

1. It’s time to ignore your score. It can be easy to wonder if you’re in over your head at college when you meet other students with higher standardized test scores or who went to more prestigious high schools. However, colleges and universities know what it takes to be successful at their institution and they wouldn’t have admitted you if you didn’t think you could cut it. If their data suggest that students like you have done well in the past, you should have confidence that you can too.

More important, however, the data from millions of college and university students indicate that your behavior and performance over time—both in high school and in college, is a much better predictor of success than a single test score. So, don’t sweat your SAT or ACT score anymore. Focus instead on the taking the right steps going forward—all the way to the commencement stage.


2. Success (or failure) isn’t just about academics. Don’t get us wrong, academics are important. However, our data indicate that 75% of students who leave their institution without a degree were doing well academically prior to dropping out.

Financial problems, life events, daily logistics, and personal well-being are often the culprits when students drop out. Other times it’s a difficult work or living situation. The fact that “life happens” can be as much, or more, of a challenge as the course work.

While you can’t plan for every eventuality, make sure you understand your financial situation and any financial aid package you’re receiving.


3. Writing skills matter, no matter what you major in. Students studying to be engineers or accountants may feel the urge to blow off their freshman composition course, believing it isn’t relevant to their course of study or future employment. That’s a really bad idea.

Our data show that students who receive an “A” or “B” in their freshman writing course are significantly more likely to do well in their junior or senior years than students who receive a “C” or lower. Take your