Factors of Student Success

Brenda Cruz, Contributing Writer

Many college students balance a number of responsibilities outside of the classroom—such as work, taking care of family members, completing homework assignments, engaging in extracurricular activities, etc.—finding time to attend to these tasks can be a challenge. While balancing these factors on a daily basis, students must also maintain a GPA that will keep them in good academic standing, make them eligible for certain scholarships and grants, gain them access to and maintain a membership in honor societies, and earn admission to a graduate program. It can be overwhelming for students to manage their life outside of their academics while working towards their degree. Getting support from their university can be a crucial component in their success. As we all know, walking across the stage at commencement is a moment most college students are excited for. Student success is an outcome that is wished upon all scholars, yet many higher education institutions fail to see the factors that play a role in it.

This study was done to examine how specific factors correlate with GPA. The number of hours students spent on certain activities was measured and compared to their self-reported GPA—we wanted to explore the connection between external factors and academic performance. Several components were looked at: work, sleep, and academics. The academics category involved spending time doing homework, studying, spending time in class, or attending a tutoring session. We had participants fill out a Google Form over the course of five days (Wednesday-Sunday) that recorded their activities by each hour. The Google Form had a time slot for each hour of the day and participants had to select the activities in which they engaged in during that hour. We totaled the number of hours each participant spent on a task for each of the days. It is important to mention that for this study, we classified average GPA as 0-3.24 and above average GPA as 3.25-4.0 based on the skewed distribution. The sample consisted of a majority of female, Latinx, and psychology majors at NEIU.

Before moving forward, I want to note that the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in this research; we were only able to recruit 16 participants and because of the shelter in place order, participants were not able to work or engage in other normal day to day activities, therefore the ability to measure students’ daily life became a limitation.

The breakdown of the results may be a bit confusing because it was done by day, so please stay with me as I highlight the days in which we found significance. The findings showed that students with an above average GPA slept more on Fridays than those with an average GPA. This shows that students that get more hours of sleep tend to have a higher GPA. As some may know, sleep is often sacrificed by college students because they must take part in other tasks such as academics, work, or taking care of a family member. Having too much on their plate can lead a student to make sleep their last priority. As for work, students who worked more on Thursdays were not those with an above average GPA, but those with an average GPA. Many students hold a job [sometimes more than one], while going to school so they can pay for their tuition, bring in an income to their household, help their family with the bills, and several other reasons. Regarding time spent on academics, students that had an above average GPA spent more time on their schooling on Thursdays and Sundays than students with an average GPA. It is often recommended that students spend at least two hours studying per credit hour each week, that’s at least six hours for a three-credit hour course. For those with a busy schedule, it can be a challenge to find time during the week to do so, especially if they are enrolled in more than one class.