A Portrait of College Success: Grit, Theories of Intelligence, and Cumulative Life Adversity

Lynn Bogin, Pace University


The character strength grit, defined as a trait in which people have sustained interest and perseverance for long-term goals, has been identified as a predictor of success and positive outcomes in a number of domains including academic achievement. While grit has been described as a characteristic of those who accomplish extraordinary achievement, this study sought to examine whether grit influences why some people succeed and persist in a more common yet important endeavor, getting through one’s first year of college. Using a sample of first-year college students at a private university in the Northeast, data was collected at two time-points; the beginning of first semester and the end of second semester. The longitudinal nature of this study allowed for an assessment of how grit may change over time. Furthermore, to gain a better understanding of how grit may influence achievement in the context of higher education, this study examined the relative importance of grit compared to other personality variables including conscientiousness. Additionally, this study also tried to provide a more comprehensive picture of academic success by exploring other variables that may influence grit including implicit theories of intelligence (ITI), life satisfaction, and the experience of past adverse events. Overall, this study sought to contribute to the burgeoning but mixed literature on how nonacademic factors affect student performance. Results supported the hypothesis that grit can provide independent predictive value for achievement over above other personality variables and measures of academic aptitude. This study also found a small association between grit and life satisfaction. A small association was found between grit and ITI, although contrary to prediction, the association between grit and college GPA was not mediated by ITI. This study was not able to establish a connection between grit and retention into the second year of college, nor whether the attainment of grit is predicted by previous life adversities.

Subject Area

Mental health|Educational psychology|Counseling Psychology|Psychology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Bogin, Lynn, "A Portrait of College Success: Grit, Theories of Intelligence, and Cumulative Life Adversity" (2017). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI10689593.



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