Want a Kid That’s Likely to Excel in Life? Focus on the “Big Five.”


Our guest post today comes from Optimum Ed, Richmond.

As parents, we want nothing more than for our children to become successful and happy.

A large part of that centers on education — helping our children transition from elementary school to middle school, from middle school to high school, from high school to college, from college to career.

In an increasing number of cases, however, the transition lands the college student back in their parent’s home.

According to Growing Leaders, Inc.,

…far too often, we’ve focused on predictors such as Grade Point Average or SAT scores. We figure if a kid is smart, they’ll stay in school and continue to be engaged in class. It made sense to us. Today we’re realizing those are not the most significant categories to measure.

A recent study showed that there are six factors that are valuable predictors of success in college.

These factors can be measured as early as middle school. The top three factors and their level of importance are:

  1. Academics – 17%
  2. Motivation – 15%
  3. Behavior – 14%

Together, motivation and behavior contribute more to college readiness than achievement.

These six middle school factors predict college grades (cumulative GPA) and graduation better than the ACT or the SAT.

The message?

It’s critical that preparation for post-secondary education focus not just on academics but also on learning the following:

  • Basic life skills like laundry, cooking simple meals, getting yourself out of bed
  • Time management
  • Utilizing a support system
  • To seek help when needed
  • To be open to new experiences

With college also comes changing expectations:


In High School

Teachers assume responsibility

Light reading

Multiple writing opportunities

Rote Math

Structured time

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In College

Students assume responsibility

Heavy reading

Draft / final

Real Math

Time management


The question parents need to ask:

Is your student…

  • Responsible
  • Resilient
  • Self-advocating
  • Focused
  • Curious/Questioning/Engaged
  • Imaginative
  • A Critical Thinker
  • Confident

Growing Leaders, Inc., points out that,

…according to First Year Experience programs and our work with over 6,000 schools and organizations worldwide, we have reduced the list of highest predictors of student success (meaning engagement, excellent performance, and satisfaction) to what we call the “Big Five.” The “Big Five” are quite simple.

When a student experiences these five realities, they are most likely to graduate and excel in life.

The “Big Five”

  1. Getting connected to the right people.

    Students who fail to graduate or succeed in school are ones who do not engage with others outside of class or don’t get involved with activities involving new people. They become stuck and without a support system to motivate them to continue. Without support, there’s also no accountability strong enough to keep them from quitting.

  2. Possessing adaptability and resilience.

    Research in the last decade suggests that adults created a fragile population of children. Because parents or teachers did not demand that young people overcome adversity or consequences were not leveled to their behavior, kids often become inelastic and unable to cope with life’s demands. It’s easy to see how a student like this would have trouble with transitions and the challenges of adapting to new situations.

  3. Developing high emotional intelligence.

    For years, educators often held the belief that the student with the highest IQ would perform the best and grow to become the most successful. It’s now apparent; success is more about EQ (emotional intelligence) than IQ. A student possessing high self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management are more likely to graduate, excel, and become a leader.

  4. Targeting a clear outcome.

    When entering school with a clear goal, a student is more likely to stay engaged and finish well. It’s the primary difference between school and sports and, for that matter, work and sports. People are drawn to sports because it’s the one place where the goal is very clear. They know what the score is and it energizes them. For many, both school and work represent environments where drudgery is endured and eventually ends with disengagement.

  5. Making good decisions.

    Students who succeed make right decisions in and out of class. It makes perfectly good sense. Decisions that determine their moral compass, their discretionary time, their study habits, their predisposition to cheat, their outside work, and how they deal with setbacks and stress, are pivotal in determining whether a kid is successful or throws in the towel.

Like anything we deal with in life, the quantifiable is easier to measure than the qualitative. Objectivity is readily apparent; subjective analysis is, by nature, often elusive.

It follows that it’s easier to use test results and GPAs as a measure of college preparedness rather than non-academic traits. However, research tells us a different story.

Instead of chasing SAT scores and grades, as parents, we should be focusing more on our children’s character and helping them develop desirable attributes.

Richmond Moms Blog is honored to partner with Optimum Ed on this sponsored post to provide parents with the information they need to help optimize their children's education and career choices. Find out more at http://www.optimumedcenter.com or call (804) 417-4807.