While many factors contribute to a student’s capacity for accomplishment, naturally motivated students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to succeed, according to a new study.
Stacey Doan, a Boston University psychology professor, said her most successful students have had genuine interest in the topic they are studying, self-discipline and an enduring educational curiosity.
“People generally think that IQ is the highest indicator of success,” Doan said. “However, research has shown that intrinsic motivation and self-regulation is a better and more important predictor of student performance than IQ.”
The reasons for which a student pursues a college education could affect his or her capacity for success, according to the study, released Thursday by researchers at the University of Rochester. Researchers found students from different socioeconomic groups vary in their motivations for pursuing degrees.
“All students appear to benefit from studying subjects that are intrinsically interesting to them,” the study stated. “… Higher SES [socioeconomic status] students may have the luxury of benefiting from this intrinsic form of motivation more than lower SES students, whose motivationsﾊmay also be influenced by financial needs.”
It is important for those advising low-income students to reinforce the importance of intrinsic interests as well as to prioritize the positive correlation between hard work and eventual economic success, according to the study.
School of Education professor Donald Beaudette said a student’s likelihood for success is affected by the expectations of his or her teachers, parents and those around him or her.
“Students can overcome socioeconomic factors with the proper guidance and motivation,” Beaudette said. “If teachers, parents and others set high and realistic expectations for the student, he or she will then strive to meet them if they are obtainable.”
SED professor Joel Scott said students motivated by external factors are at a large disadvantage because such individuals are extremely vulnerable to change over time.
“Students who take ownership of their learning and are comfortable with learning in a dynamic environment are far more likely to be successful than students who approach learning from a consumerist standpoint,” Scott said in an email.
Scott said regardless of economic and family background, initiative, responsibility and persistence are key qualities to a student’s success.
“The common thread, however, is still a student’s willingness to take authorship of their learning, to take risks, to learn from successes and failures, to critically reflect and persist,” Scott said.
Ruta Strazdis, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman, said since academics have always been important to her, she would have pursued a college education regardless of her parents’ expectations.
“I think my success is up to me,” Stazdis said. “My family motivates me to work hard, but if they weren’t motivating me I would still work just as hard because I have my own academic standards.”
Rebecca Deckert, CAS freshman, said success is based on a combination of both how education was emphasized to students while growing up, as well as their own personal motivations and goals.
“Different socioeconomic backgrounds motivate [students] in different ways, but both have the potential to motivate in terms of success,” Deceket said. “People with higher socioeconomic statuses may have a lot of pressure … because everyone around them is educated, and so they have a pressure to keep up [the legacy].”
Josh Falkson, a School of Management junior, said a lack of money can be a positive factor for a student rather than a negative one.
“In my experience, some of the people who aren’t as wealthy at BU are smarter because they had to work harder to obtain a scholarship to be able to afford coming to this school,” Falkson said.
Falkson said if students disregard passion and instead strictly focus on financial goals, they are less likely to succeed, regardless of their demographic backgrounds.
“[However], I know plenty of people who are passionate about their jobs and still make a lot of money,” Falkson said. “The two factors do not have to be mutually exclusive.”