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The 4 Most Important Factors in Student Success

Traditionally, schools approached education with a simple goal in mind: present the material to students, and they either pass or fail. But modern educational philosophy involves a more individualized and holistic approach to education.

Students don’t all learn the same way—and they don’t all have the same obstacles or goals. How do you measure the success of your school or department if you don’t see the full picture?

As productivity experts, Slothzero coaches know what it takes to help students succeed. Below, we’ll examine the main factors contributing to student success based on scientific research. Then, we’ll show you some practical ways interpersonal support—such as one-on-one accountability coaching—can make a difference in your school’s student success rates.

What is student success, and why is it important?

Student success is the general term for setting and reaching goals in an educational setting. It looks different for each student, but it generally includes factors like:

  • Academic success
  • Regular attendance
  • Course completion
  • Professional development
  • Career readiness
  • Degree attainment
  • Holistic development

Student success rates combine several central factors to a learner’s experience. They consider retention rates, student satisfaction, and social factors alongside basic statistics like test scores.

Student engagement and happiness are directly linked to academic success in higher education, which not only improves student experience but also improves your institution’s reputation. And a good reputation helps attract more students to your school—which drives up revenue and lets you better serve each student’s needs.

Challenges students face in achieving success

Your students could face challenges from all areas of their lives, from their home or living environment to their mental health. When a student doesn’t have the money to pay for tuition or school supplies, it can be hard to focus on school work. Or your college students might have multiple time commitments like part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and home responsibilities.

Other students might be coming from inadequate previous schools. Or they might have a bad home environment—from inconsiderate roommates to an unstable family life—that makes it difficult to meet their basic needs, let alone focus during class.

Or they might have disabilities, mental health diagnoses, or lack of accessibility resources that make it hard for them to succeed. More than 60% of college students have at least one mental health issue, which can make it even harder to deal with the anxiety that comes with coursework. Institutions should provide comprehensive student support services to help meet their students’ diverse mental health and accessibility needs.

What student success factors are most important?

As part of a Student Support study, the Research and Planning Group for California Community Colleges (RP Group) developed a framework of success factors for students. The RP group found that student support should be built into the curriculum and integrated into students’ daily lives. Also, students are more successful when they feel:

  • Directed
  • Focused
  • Nurtured
  • Engaged
  • Connected
  • Valued

Image source: RP Group

Based on these findings, it’s clear that student success comes from a combination of clear goals, vertical support, horizontal support, and internal support (AKA self-esteem). We’ll explore each source further below.

Forward-focused: Have clear goals

The RP group first found that students should be both directed and focused. They should have clear goals and know what it will take to achieve them.

  • If their goal is to graduate with a 3.0 GPA, what kinds of grades should they get in each class?
  • If they want to pass the AP Calculus test, how much studying will it take?
  • If they intend to have a career in journalism, what electives and extracurriculars will best prepare them for that future?
  • How often should they attend academic advising sessions to make sure they’re on track to meet their goals?

Then, students should have the encouragement and support needed to stay on track. This support can come from their teacher, parents or other loved one, and counselors in the student success center.

For example, every coaching project at Slothzero is goal-directed. Our coaches help students clarify their goals early—and then hold them accountable for that decision by keeping them focused. Our co-working methods and contract-centered coaching cut down on distractions; the in-person nature of Slothzero coaching means students can’t wander off in the middle of a work session.

Vertical support: Nurtured by authority figures

Each student should be supported both vertically and horizontally. Vertical support comes from teachers, advisors, administrators, parents, and any other role models or authority figures.

However, the key is support, not pressure. Students shouldn’t just feel pressure not to fail; they should feel like someone wants them to succeed.

Supportive authority figures and role models should not only encourage students to succeed but offer real willingness to help. Student success centers can offer tutoring, support groups, and accountability coaching to help students make real progress toward their goals.

At Slothzero, our coaches nurture students’ aspirations to live up to their best selves. They are caring and kind, not an authority figure (like a teacher or angry parent) that a student might avoid. Because the coach is completely on the student’s side, they feel more nurtured and safe—an environment that makes it easier for students to admit when they fall short or need help.

Horizontal support: Connected to a diverse community

A complete support system also has horizontal support, which comes from the students’ peers. A successful student is engaged and connected with their community, actively participating in their classes, student life, and extracurricular activities. They should feel like they are a real part of their school community.

It’s not enough to get a perfect GPA; a good school experience helps students be well-rounded. Humans are social creatures and are best motivated when working in a group. If a student feels like part of a community working toward the same goal (i.e., academic success), they’ll be more likely to succeed themselves.

Community is important, no matter your stage of life or personal goals. One part of Slothzero’s service is offering clients ways to connect with others who share similar aims. That way, the accountability comes from both coach and peer relationships—and becomes twice as powerful.

Internal support: Have strong self-esteem

Finally, students should feel valued. They should have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate their skills and abilities, both on campus and in the community.

Not only should they feel like their contributions are valued by others, but at the deepest level, student success begins with the self: does the student believe they have the abilities, skills, and talents to do well?

This can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation, though; students can only succeed and appreciate external support systems if they esteem themselves—but sometimes external community builds up their internal support. So in the end, the best route to student success involves a healthy combination of each of the above factors.

Many student success centers looking for ways to improve student success rates have turned to accountability coaching. To learn more about how Slothzero’s psychology-backed coaching services can be a powerful tool to boosting student success (and your institution’s performance), schedule a free consultation today.