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 represent the third 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.

Successful students also have a professional attitude and demeanor, even for school. They understand appropriate behavior and dress, and can communicate articulately to different audiences using different voices. They have worked with people from different backgrounds, and shown themselves a valuable team member. They have earned the trust of organizations and supervisors by their punctuality, their consistent commitment, and their exemplary productivity. They have shown commitment to their organizations, but also worked with and mobilized other organizations with mutual interests towards the same common goal.

While being professional is the ability to work within organizations, being synergetic is the ability to lead organizations for superior outcomes. Exemplary individuals can bring people together with seemingly little in common and bridge cultural or communicative gaps. They can articulate a common goal that did not preexist, and clearly identify roles for each person or organization. They see the value in every person, and bring out the productivity and energy of all involved by using each according to their individual strengths and goals. Individual weaknesses are mitigated through strong leadership and individual conflicts are mediated by offering effective compromises or win-win solutions. Synergetic leadership is often founded upon strong integrity and excellence in the other eight areas.

One may conclude that students’ college persistence, college completion and college success would all increase along with an increasing count of the attributes described above.

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