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Are GPA and SAT/ACT Scores Better Predictors of Success than Social and Emotional Factors?

In the college admissions process, many higher-ed institutions review several different factors on a student’s transcript. The two we are all most familiar with include GPA and SAT/ACT scores. But are those really the best criteria to determine if a student will be successful in completing college and pursuing careers? Gallop research shows, “Hope is a stronger predictor of college success than GPA or SAT and ACT scores.”

What do we mean by “Hope?”  Hopeful students are much more emotionally engaged in almost every aspect of their schoolwork and extracurricular activities. They have strong relationships at school, they attend class regularly, they participate in class, they complete assignments and they are proactive about developing and maintaining good study habits. They have an intrinsic desire to be successful and they are more likely to believe they can succeed after graduating from high school and college.

Fortunately, some 4-year higher-ed institutions like George Washington University are moving towards making submission of SAT and ACT test scores optional for a student’s college application package. Many of these institutions realize test scores can tend to be an indicator of how well a kid takes tests possibly as a result of an expensive test-prep course, as opposed to a true measure of content knowledge, creativity and critical thinking skills.

This factor of Emotional Engagement, is the Non-Cognitive measure that most directly correlates to a student’s academic achievement. Among other factors, students who experience high levels of parent involvement and have a close relationship with their parents are more likely to be emotionally engaged at school and have better emotional health overall. In addition, teachers have an incredible role to play in developing these social and emotional factors. A National Association of School Psychologist study suggests that student-centered learning activities to include small group work, class discussions, peer tutoring, and cooperative learning help to enhance social relationships and school connectedness. However, teachers need support from their administrators in order to strategically and successfully incorporate these activities into the curriculum. School and district leaders cannot continue to ignore and neglect these critical social and emotional factors that help students thrive academically and socially. They should empower and support teachers so that they are more engaged and effective in the classroom, says the “State of America’s Schools” report, a synthesis of polling data and research from the international Gallup organization.