Skip to main content

Trait Correlates of Graduate Student Success: Teaching an Old System New Tricks

15 July 2019


Graduate school applicants face many barriers to entry when attempting to gain entry to their program of choice, ranging high GPAs, acceptable GRE scores, great recommendations, and the financial ability to pay the fees associated with transcripts or applications. Despite all of these gate-keeping methods, between 10% and 66% of those students admitted to graduate programs end up leaving the program at the Master’s Level (Okahana, 2013). While there are multiple reasons for students to drop out, some researchers believe that the problem starts with these gate-keeping methods lacking reliability, going so far as to suggest that the GRE in particular only accounted for 10% of the variation in psychological programs (Bowman & Mangelsdorf, 1989; Sternberg & Williams, 1997).

In this study I drew from the research by Teodorescu, Furnham, and MacRea (2017) which examines variables related to retention and success of employees in the workplace, by measuring predictive personality traits. However, given the differences between graduate students and private-sector employees I included research from Grehan, Flanagan, and Malgady (2011) suggesting that psychology students’ success is better predicted when adding a measure of emotional intelligence. The goal being to take these measurements and observe any correlations with objective measures of success (undergraduate and graduate GPA) and a subjective measure of success consisting of four, Likert-scale questions examining participants’ beliefs regarding academic success.

Results suggested that conscientiousness was a strong predictor of success, however it was not the strongest predictor as hypothesized, suggesting a fundamental difference in the graduate student population when compared to the original study by Teodorescu et al. (2017). Additionally, while emotional intelligence did not correlate with the measures of success as seen in the study by Grehan et al. (2011), it did positively correlate with conscientiousness scores.


Files are restricted to Pacific University. Sign in to view.