Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why it's better to be challenged

Some interesting new research from William Bowen, the former president of Princeton, finds that -- holding academic preparation constant -- young people who attend more demanding colleges are more likely to graduate.

Part of this may simply be expectations. Graduation rates tend to be higher at more selective universities, and when graduating on time is what everybody does, people tend to respond. Plus, these universities often have good systems in place to make sure that people take the classes they need and understand the requirements.

On the other hand, as we've pointed out with young gifted children, it's no blessing to find school easy. We are happiest when we are working hard at something that challenges us at close to the extent of our abilities. If college isn't demanding, then I'm guessing that some people find continuing their education to feel a little pointless. Certainly, many gifted children become dissatisfied with school because they are bored, and there's no reason to think this wouldn't happen for older students, too.


Kevin said...

I think that there is an even simpler explanation. The selective colleges are only accepting people who can afford to do 4 years of college and who have strong family support for doing so. The ones with a lower completion rate are accepting a lot of students in shaky financial shape with no family support.

It probably has nothing at all to do with the rigor of the curriculum, just with the admissions process.

Miss E said...

Makes complete sense to me. No matter how much people complain about it, we like to be challenged. All of us. It makes life a lot more fun.

The Princess Mom said...

And why spend $10K a year at a state school if you're not getting anything out of it?