Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 459–465 | Cite as

Traditional and psychological factors associated with academic success: investigating best predictors of college retention

  • David Saunders-Scott
  • Matthew Bersagel Braley
  • Naomi Stennes-Spidahl
Original Paper


We compared factors that colleges have traditionally used to predict students’ academic success (ACT score and high school GPA) to non-traditional factors (perceived stress and grit, defined as having perseverance and passion for long-term goals) to determine best predictors of academic success, measured using college GPA and retention. We obtained data from 165 undergraduate students. Participants completed the Short Grit Scale and Perceived Stress Scale. We obtained participants’ college GPA, high school GPA, and ACT scores. We assessed longitudinally, 1.5 years later, whether participants were retained. ACT score and high school GPA were excellent predictors of college students’ GPA, but poor predictors of retention. Conversely, perceived stress and grit were poor predictors of college students’ GPA, but were statistically significant predictors of retention. Traditional factors, often used for college admissions, are less important than non-traditional, psychological factors, in predicting who will complete college. We discuss potential strategies for improving college retention.


Academic performance College retention Grit Perceived stress 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors of this study declare that we have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board of our university. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Viterbo UniversityLa CrosseUSA

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