The College Puzzle Blog
Prior PostingsAbout
Dr. Michael W. Kirst

Michael W. Kirst is Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University since 1969.
Dr. Kirst received his Ph.D. in political economy and government from Harvard. Before joining the Stanford University faculty, Dr. Kirst held several positions with the federal government, including Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Manpower, Employment and Poverty. He was a former president of the California State Board of Education. His book From High School to College with Andrea Venezia was published by Jossey Bass in 2004.

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My blog discusses the important and complex subjects of college completion, college success, student risk factors (for failing), college readiness, and academic preparation. I will explore the pieces of the college puzzle that heavily influence, if not determine, college success rates.

Attributes of a Successful College Student

The following is the first of a three-part guest entry to my blog by Michael Staton who works with Batiq – a “social entrepreneurship company that is dedicated to revolutionizing education and creating more purposeful uses for technology.” In simpler terms, Batiq preps students for college.

Staton interviewed students at Stanford and UC Berkeley. Students were asked to describe behaviors of a successful college student. Then all behaviors were grouped and assigned an attribute name. According to these focus groups, nine attributes, overall, describe a successful college student. Attributes are listed in the order from their perceived commonness -- from the most common to the least. Attributes seem to build on each other and become more difficult to obtain requiring more wisdom and skill as the list progresses. The attributes are listed as: Inquisitive, Adaptive, Self-Motivated, Insightful, Passionate, Committed, Creative, Professional, and Synergetic.

A student that will succeed at college is inquisitive. In class and outside of class, they often think of questions and are not afraid to ask them. They often spend time researching topics of interest. Testing a variety of activities and career options has been a mainstay of their experience. They have identified people around them that know more than they do, and have developed mentorships with them. They have inquired into other cultures and locations, and developed a keen awareness for the value of others and their heritage.

Adaptive students can adjust to changing expectations and environments. They are perceptive to evolving norms, among social groups and institutions. They live up to their responsibilities, in school and employment. They enjoy travel and can adapt to new surroundings and those of different cultures. They find their personal weaknesses and learn how to overcome them. Challenging situations do not set them back significantly, as they rise to the occasion.
Self-motivated individuals have found their inspiration intrinsically. They have seen a higher purpose to their behavior and persevere without help through multiple obstacles. Where they are involved, they have actively sought out responsibilities and initiated projects or activities. Volunteering is something they do commonly. Imposing higher standards on themselves, they do not wait for their environments to set higher expectations – they go out of their way constantly challenge themselves in their coursework and in life.

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