April 24, 2009

College barriers may lead to giving up

If a student feels the path to college is closed, he or she may conclude that studying and homework are a waste of time, U.S. researchers suggest.

Mesmin Destin and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Michigan found that this mentality and lack of motivation toward school occurs in children as young as age 11.

Seventh-grade students from low-income families were either provided with information about need-based financial-aid opportunities available to them -- i.e., open-path mind-set that college was a possibility for them -- or information about the enormous costs associated with a college education -- i.e., closed-path mind-set that college was not a viable option.

The students then completed questionnaires about their academic goals, expected grades and how many hours they planned on studying and doing homework later that evening.

The study, published in Psychological Science, reveals that students as young as age 11, who felt that college was an option for them, expected to do better in school and planned to put more effort into studying and homework, compared to students who did not view college as a realistic possibility.

The authors said based on the study results, parents and children from low-income families should learn about the financial accessibility of college early, before gaps in student achievement levels emerge and some fall behind.