Word Count: 1507
The Great Power of Grit
College can be the best time of a students life, or the most frustrating, it all depends on how fast they are able to adapt to their new lifestyle. As students enter the field of higher education they are faced with challenges, which many of them have never experienced before. For many students, college is the first time they experience independence and all the responsibilities that come with it. An essential part of students being able to adapt to their new lifestyle involves the amount of grit or perseverance a student embodies. There is a correlation between grit and success, Angela Duckworth’s study suggests that intelligence isn’t the only factor that contributes to success. Grit, as defined by Duckworth is, “sticking with things over the very long term until you master them.”(Duckworth et al) This is important to note because it can change the way we approach success to a more effective way that encompasses more students. Duckworth also suggests that the advantage the grittier person has over someone who isn’t gritty is stamina. Duckworth concluded that a sense of social belonging may be key to persisting through college. Being able to adapt and change according to your environment is an important part of success. Many students lack the ability to establish a support system, many times when you are lacking that sense of perseverance you can utilize a support system within your social group. Grit is particularly important amongst college students because it is an indicator of success, it allows students to persevere through challenges. Understanding the concept of grit is important because parents and teachers can be a big influence when it comes to the development of grit.
Student’s who come from low-income and are first generation families often have the need to develop grit; the consequences of being an outsider in an unknown environment and navigating the system by themselves contribute to the development of grit. As mentioned in Duckworth’s research, IQ isn’t the only factor that contributes to someones success, college students who have particularly challenging backgrounds may display more grit than that students counterpart who didn’t have as a challenging background.(Duckworth et al) The experiences faced by a person helps develop grit, the challenges allow for the person to further develop perseverance and demonstrate it in the midst of challenges. What supporters such as faculty and teachers can do to help students develop grit is for example, not base grades or college acceptances based solely on standardized test scores which only measure someones IQ, but move towards a more holistic review process that takes into consideration the challenges the student has faced and more importantly how the student demonstrated grit to overcome the obstacle. Emphasizing to students that success isnt attributed solely to someones “intelligence” but rather through diligence/grit.
Amongst college students grit is particularly important because college is on average 4-5 years and success in college can not be measured immediately. The need for a student to be persistent is essential to take on the 4-5 year college experience. In an interview conducted about what contributions attributed to success, a first-generation, low-income student from UC Davis, Alexis Medina answered, “What has contributed to my success has been my ability to envision my own success and becoming familiar with my own potential. I think its easy to let obstacles you face bring you down, but when you are able to see passed the challenge you’re faced with, you’re able to overcome it and move on.”(A. Medina, personal communication, November 23, 2014) Being able to envision success is a key characteristic of a gritty person, it allows for the person to not be brought down by barriers that are presented to him or herself. Self-determination also contributes to someone’s grit, self-determined people are defined by their own standards rather than outside/societal standards and are aware of their own potential regardless of what outside sources say.
In a college setting, a sense of community is important for a student to develop or maintain grit. Community is important because as mentioned before, the feeling “social belonging” contributes to the success the student has in college. In the continuation of the interview of the UC Davis student, Alexis, he said, “I have seen the impact of having a community has had on me, the transition between high school and college was smoother because I found a support system.”(A. Medina, personal communication, November 23, 2014) It is important to create spaces where students can feel supported because a support system can impact the way students deal with failure. Empowering students should be a priority in order to help students be grittier.
The lack of grit within a student in a college campus, can lead to suicidal thoughts and may cause that student to drop out of college. “Understanding depression, its symptoms and its consequences, can help us identify and help friends and family members who may be suffering.”(Steiner 4) Depression can happen to everyone, it’s the way we handle situations that will lead us to overcome it. As student begin to grow and experience new things in their college careers, they may feel overwhelmed or pressured by everything going on at once. Some students can go from being the top of their class in high school, to failing their classes in college; not because they aren’t smart enough but because they are not prepared to work and persevere through the new adjustments in their life.
Learning how to deal with failure is also key in mastering grit. The way failure is dealt with affects the way students respond to failure. In order to develop grit one must learn from ones own shortcomings, in other words, our own failures. Teachers and specifically parents should take into consideration how they decide to respond to failure and try to push the student to learn from their mistake, rather than being condemned for it. In Thomas R. Hoerr’s piece, Principle Connection/ Got Grit?, he says, “Every child needs to feel that learning is possible and probable.”(Hoerr 5) Hoerr underlines an important factor in the development of grit, making learning possible and probable can be achieved by changing the standards of success, teachers can help by adopting a new testing method with the aim of finding what the students knows and rewarding them for it, rather than attempting to trick the student by posing confusing questions. In the interview conducted, Medina discussed about failure,“Learning to overcome failures was the most important thing I had to do, learning from my mistakes helped me in the long-run to not let adversity bring me down.” (A. Medina, personal communication, November 23, 2014)
“Many factors contribute to college success, including money, what colleges students go to, and what Duckworth calls “social-psychological” barrier.”(Hanford/Mindshift) Their are many factors to how well a student will demonstrate their grit. Depending on what they have to work with, it’ll show the amount of grit that individual is putting out. Every student is going to be different in respect to how hard they have to work in order to complete one’s goals. If a student isn’t ever forced to try and work hard, they’ll never understand how much grit is needed to really overcome other challenges. In a sense students can lose the ability to measure the amount of grit or perseverance needed to get through a barrier. When they realized how little motivation they have, they resource to suicidal thoughts to escape the pain.
Its impossible to know exactly what is needed to develop grit, but it allows us to know that in fact grit plays a big role in one’s success. We’ll never be able to look at a newborn and decide whether he will be more or less grittier than the next kid. “creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels” (Curtis)The way we approach learning styles of kids can be a form of helping to develop grit at a young age. Parents, and teachers are capable of manipulating the factors that many possible effect grit and ultimately success. Realizing the importance of grit can help us better develop grittier people and help students be more successful. Having the ability to change the way we see success and failure can help change the way we teach our students into a more effective way. Grit is the key to success and developing the characteristic is essential in order to successfully navigate college.
Hoerr, T. (n.d.). Principal Connection / Got Grit? Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar12/vol69/num06/Got-Grit¢.aspx
Steiner, A. (n.d.). UC Davis: Prized Writing : Depression in College Students. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from prizedwriting.ucdavis.edu//depression-in-college-students/
Hanford, E. (2012, October 2). How Important is Grit in Student Achievement? Retrieved December 2, 2014, from blogs.org/how-important-is-grit-in-student-achievement/
Curtis, S. (2014, August 5). Helping Kids Stick with Learning. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.middleweb.com/10506/helping-kids-stick-learning/
(Alexis Medina, personal communication, November 22, 2014)