The ideal student excels in more than just academics, study finds

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Students and faculty in higher education value other skills beyond just test scores

Many students stress about getting good grades, but findings from a new study suggest that there are other important aspects when it comes to being a good student. 

According to a new report from the Taylor & Francis Group, faculty and students in higher education believe the ideal student excels in more than just academics. The researchers explained that factors like punctuality, organization, and mindset are just as important.

“Marketisation has directed higher education institutions and policies to focus on student support and provisions that promote better experience and value,” the researchers wrote. “By contrast, expectations of university students are under-researched and understated, with less attention placed on what and how students should perform in higher education. 

“This paper further develops the contrast of the ideal student at university, which aims to promote transparency and explicitness about what is expected of students, and potentially alleviate inequalities driven by implicit and unspoken rules of higher education.” 

What is an ideal student?

The researchers conducted surveys and let focus groups that included data on over 1,100 students and faculty members across British schools. Participants wrote down their most and least important qualities associated with the ideal student, and then they voted on the ones that they considered most important.

Ultimately, the researchers narrowed down the list to the top eight most important qualities of an ideal student. They include:

  • Diligence and engagement 

  • Organization and discipline

  • Reflection and innovation

  • Positive and confident outlook 

  • Support of others

  • Academic skills

  • Employability skills

  • Intelligence

“Being intelligent and strategic do not appear to be important for staff and only moderately more importantly for students,” said researcher Dr. Billy Wong. “This is surprising, given the extent to which graduates are often judged on their degree results. Universities are also increasingly measured, advertised, and ranked by the employment statistics of their graduates, so it is interesting to see that employment skills feature towards the bottom of the ideal list of attributes.”  

Not all about grades

These findings are important because they show that academic performance isn’t the number one quality that university students or faculty members consider to be important when thinking of what makes an ideal student. However, the team learned that students and staff members had differing opinions about what the most important qualities were. 

Overall, having a positive mindset and better general mental health were more important qualities to students. On the other hand, staff members viewed employability as a more prominent skill. The researchers hope that these findings highlight the role that mental health plays in college students’ success. By knowing how highly college students rank mindset, universities have a chance to do their part to ensure that students feel encouraged and supported in and out of the classroom. 

“The importance of student happiness and confidence is crucial in efforts to promote better student mental health and well-being, especially as demands for university mental health services and counseling have reportedly increased in recent years,” Dr. Wong said. 

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