How to Help College Students Develop More Grit
The concept of grit, although not new, has recently become a higher education buzzword due, in part, to Angela Duckworth’s research on the subject in her book, Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance. Traditionally defined as “courage” or “resolve” by Miriam-Webster, Duckworth reimagined the term as regarding higher education, colleges and universities want to know how “gritty” or “resilient” their students are and how this trait can affect their progress toward degree completion. This is certainly beneficial knowledge to have, as a student’s level of grit can also affect his or her self-control and ability to engage with professors and class material.
There is a wide variety of methods by which to measure and test a student’s grit level, but what if that level falls short of ideal? A student body lacking in grit could manifest as an increase in years to degree completion due to changing majors, failure to persist to degree completion at all, or high levels of unemployment 6 months after graduation. Outcomes such as these based on students’ inability to commit to a degree path and persist to graduation are detrimental to students themselves and to the colleges attempting to support them.
But, there is good news! Incorporating purpose and vocation exploration into first-year college programming has been shown to increase students’ perseverance toward degree completion as well as increased job satisfaction and quality of life after graduation. In other words, students who go through programs intended to teach them how to shape their personal values into rewarding careers are more likely to persist toward degree completion in four years. Students who understand how to put their values into action through future careers are more likely to push through adversity in pursuit of an end goal that they can relate to.
Their grit, or, ability to passionately pursue a long-term goal, is increased by understanding how to mold their values into actions. Internships and service learning activities are additional ways in which to strengthen this commitment through the entirety of the college experience. When students see a clear path toward a goal that they identify with, they will become better at overcoming setbacks and maneuvering through unexpected obstacles, issues that might have otherwise affected their persistence to degree completion.