Tag Archives: College Completion

University of Texas Austin study: Small words in college essay can predict college success

11 Feb

This is an absolutely jaw-dropping statistic. According the article, Opinion Brief: Detroit’s ‘shocking’ 47 percent illiteracy rate which was posted at The Week:

More than 200,000 Detroit residents — 47 percent of Motor City adults — are “functionally illiterate,” according to a new report released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. That means they can’t fill out basic forms, read a prescription, or handle other tasks most Americans take for granted, according to the fund’s director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, as quoted by CBS Detroit. Her organization’s study also found that the education and training aimed at overcoming these problems “is inadequate at best,” says Jackie Headapohl at Michigan Live. http://theweek.com/article/index/215055/detroits-shocking-47-percent-illiteracy-rate

Illiteracy is a global problem, with some geographic areas and populations suffering more from illiteracy than others.

Education Portal defines illiteracy in the article, Illiteracy: The Downfall of American Society.

Most people think of literacy as a simple question of being able to read. But while a young child who can work her way through a basic picture book is considered to have age-appropriate literacy levels, an adult who can only read at the most fundamental level is still functionally illiterate.

The world requires that adults not only be able to read and understand basic texts, but also be able to function in the workplace, pay bills, understand legal and financial documents and navigate technology – not to mention the advanced reading comprehension skills required to pursue postsecondary education and the opportunities that come with it.

As a result, when we talk about the effects of illiteracy on society, we’re talking primarily about what happens when you have a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks. However, it is worth keeping in mind that childhood illiteracy is, of course, directly correlated to adult illiteracy.                                                                                                     http://education-portal.com/articles/Illiteracy_The_Downfall_of_American_Society.html

The key concept is the individual cannot adequately function in the society in which they live. That means that tasks necessary to provide a satisfactory life are difficult because they cannot read and/or comprehend what they read. Reading and literacy are important for writing and the ability for an individual to express their ideas.

Scott Jaschik wrote in the Inside Higher Education article, Analyzing Application Essays:

Admissions essays are thought of by many as less scientific than other parts of the college application process — a chance to share a personal story, to inject personality into the process, to become more than just a grade-point average or test score.

But it may be that statistical analysis can be applied to application essays — and that some words and some topics correlate with better performance in college. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in PLOS One that analyzes the words used in application essays with grades earned once enrolled.

The study found that the essays that predicted the most academic success demonstrated “categorical thinking,” which involves writing that categorizes things, and that connects concepts and ideas. Generally, writing with categorical thinking uses many articles such as “the” and prepositions such as “on” and “of.”

Essays that show “dynamic thinking,” in contrast, predict lower G.P.A.s in college. This writing tends to use pronouns such as “I” and “they” and to rely on personal narratives.

The authors of the paper — all at the University of Texas at Austin — are James Pennebaker, a psychology professor, David Beaver, professor in of linguistics; Gary Lavergne, program manager in the Office of Admissions; Cindy Chung, psychology postdoctoral fellow; and Joey Frazee, a linguistics graduate student.

The analysis is based on data from 50,000 essays from 25,975 applicants who, after being accepted, enrolled at “a large state university” from 2004 through 2007, and were then tracked for their grades. The study does not explicitly state that the students are at UT Austin, and the researchers declined to name the institution. But the size of the university seems to match UT, and the Institutional Review Board that reviewed the project was at that university….

Generally, those applicants who, compared to the average applicant, used greater numbers of long words (6 letters or more) than others, used more complicated sentences, and wrote longer essays all ended up with slightly higher GPAs than did other admitted students…. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/08/new-study-links-certain-application-essays-and-college-success

Citation:

Article Source: When Small Words Foretell Academic Success: The Case of College Admissions Essays

Pennebaker JW, Chung CK, Frazee J, Lavergne GM, Beaver DI (2014) When Small Words Foretell Academic Success: The Case of College Admissions Essays. PLoS ONE 9(12): e115844. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115844

Abstract

The smallest and most commonly used words in English are pronouns, articles, and other function words. Almost invisible to the reader or writer, function words can reveal ways people think and approach topics. A computerized text analysis of over 50,000 college admissions essays from more than 25,000 entering students found a coherent dimension of language use based on eight standard function word categories. The dimension, which reflected the degree students used categorical versus dynamic language, was analyzed to track college grades over students’ four years of college. Higher grades were associated with greater article and preposition use, indicating categorical language (i.e., references to complexly organized objects and concepts). Lower grades were associated with greater use of auxiliary verbs, pronouns, adverbs, conjunctions, and negations, indicating more dynamic language (i.e., personal narratives). The links between the categorical-dynamic index (CDI) and academic performance hint at the cognitive styles rewarded by higher education institutions.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0115844

Here is the press release from the University of Texas:

Short Words Predict Academic Success

Jan. 7, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas — The smallest, most forgettable words in admissions essays can tell us in advance how students will perform in college, a new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin reveals.

Common sense suggests that academic potential is shown by use of long complicated words. The new research shows, on the contrary, that common, easily overlooked words — such as the, a, to, I and they — matter. These short words provide a better yardstick than long words for measuring a person’s potential.

The new study used 50,000 admissions essays written by prospective college students, enabling the researchers to connect language use to later college performance. It turned out that how students use small words is related to subsequent GPA. For example, students who heavily use the word I tend to do worse in class, and students who heavily use the words the and a do better.

“Function words allow us to assess how people are thinking more than what they are thinking about,” said James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the paper. “In the growing age of big data, we can now begin to identify the potential thinking patterns of individuals, groups and perhaps even cultures for whom there exist language records.”

The UT Austin team used computerized text analysis to show that college performance is tied to a new measure that they call the Categorical Dynamic Index (CDI). This measure is calculated from a simple combination of the frequencies of common words. Categorical thinking involves categorizing things into kinds and connecting objects and concepts in a sophisticated way. Categorical thinking is reflected by use of articles such as the and prepositions such as on and of.

The new research shows that people who think categorically do better in college than those who don’t. On the other hand, dynamic thinkers see the world in terms of narratives, typically personal and subjective. Dynamic thinkers use more pronouns such as I and they and more auxiliary verbs such as will and had, and these applicants ended up, on average, with lower GPAs in the study.

The paper, titled “When Small Words Foretell Academic Success,” appeared in the Dec. 31 online edition of the journal PLOS ONE. In addition to Pennebaker, the interdisciplinary team of researchers includes David Beaver, professor in the Department of Linguistics; Gary Lavergne, program manager in the Office of Admissions; Cindy Chung, psychology postdoctoral fellow; and Joey Frazee, a linguistics graduate student.

The surprising finding that small words are tied to academic success could, of course, be used by admissions officers. But the researchers caution against the simple use of word counts in admissions decisions.

“The results could be interpreted not as a failure of dynamic thinkers to do well in college,” said Beaver, “but as a failure of college to help students add categorical thinking to their arsenal.”

For more information, contact: David Ochsner, College of Liberal Arts, 512 626 0788;  David Beaver, Department of Linguistics, College of Liberal Arts, ;  James Pennebaker, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, 512-232-2781.

K-12 education must not only prepare students by teaching basic skills, but they must prepare students for training after high school, either college or vocational. There should not only be a solid education foundation established in K-12, but there must be more accurate evaluation of whether individual students are “college ready.”

Related:

Helping community college students to graduate                                          https://drwilda.com/2012/02/08/helping-community-college-students-to-graduate/

The digital divide affects the college application process                                 https://drwilda.com/2012/12/08/the-digital-divide-affects-the-college-application-process/

College readiness: What are ‘soft skills’                                                                       https://drwilda.com/2012/11/14/college-readiness-what-are-soft-skills/

Colleges rethinking who may need remedial education                                       https://drwilda.com/2012/10/24/colleges-rethinking-who-may-need-remedial-education/

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NBER study: Work Study positively effects college completion and employment

30 Jul

When students receive letters of acceptance from colleges, they must decide which college is the best fit for them. Given the tight economy, cost is a major consideration. Beckie Supiano and Elyse Ashburn wrote With New Lists, Federal Government Moves to Help Consumers and Prod Colleges to Limit Price Increases http://chronicle.com/article/Governments-New-Lists-on/128092/ in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the Department of Education’s new site about college costs. The College Affordability and Transparency Center http://collegecost.ed.gov/catc/Default.aspx is useful for students who are applying to college. It allows parents and students to calculate the costs of various college options. Once the costs of various college options are considered, then other considerations come into the decision.

For many students a major consideration is whether a college offers work study programs. College Data provides an overview of work study in How Work-Study Works:

How Do You Get Work-Study?
You apply for work-study just like you do all other forms of financial aid: by filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your financial need usually determines the amount of work-study you are eligible for.
You find work-study jobs through job banks or postings by the financial aid or college employment offices. In most cases, students will have the opportunity to interview with potential work-study employers. The interviews help students and employers find out if the job is a good fit. Sometimes the college arranges these interviews; sometimes the student does. Even if you are eligible for work-study, there is no guarantee you’ll get a work-study job. In the end, whether or not you are hired is up to the employer.
Why Choose a Work-Study Job Over Regular Employment?
Taking a work-study job does not impact your financial aid eligibility. That is because the federal government does not count your work-study job earnings as income….
How Much Can You Earn?
The amount of your other financial aid usually determines how much aid is allocated to work-study. How much you can earn also depends on your class schedule and how well you’re doing academically. You should be realistic when working out your schedule and allow yourself time not only for study but also for recreational and leisure activities….
How Does Your Salary Get Paid?
Undergraduate students on work-study are paid by the hour and must be paid at least once a month. Your check will be sent directly to you to pay for your tuition, room, meals, or other college fees. Or, if you request it, your check can be sent directly to the college.
What Are Typical Work-Study Jobs?
If you get a work-study job on campus, the college will usually be your employer. Typical jobs include working in the library or bookstore, serving other students in the dining hall, and assisting with college events. Off-campus work usually benefits the public in some way and should relate as closely as possible to your course of study.
You may be working alongside other students not in the work-study program. In fact, in all respects your employment will appear the same as any other job. Only the college and your employer will know you’re a work-study student. The only difference between a regular part-time job and a work-study job is that part of your salary may be covered by the federal government, the state, your college, or some other organization…. http://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleId=10083

Two Columbia University researchers concluded that work study correlates positively in helping student college completion rates.

Ken Button of Education Dive summarizes a NBER study which shows the effectiveness of college work study programs in Research shows college work-study programs generally benefit students:

Dive Brief:
• A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA, finds that college student employment subsidies provide generally positive effects on degree completion and employment.
• According to the study, the positive effects of employment subsidies are largest for lower-income students and students with lower SAT scores.
• According to the study, students enrolled in the largest employment subsidy program, Federal Work-Study, have a 3.2% improvement in bachelor degree completion six years later and a 2.4% improvement in employment six years later.
Dive Insight:
The study says that the academic improvements seem to be driven by the population of students who would have worked anyway, even without a student employment subsidy program. That’s because these students were able to work fewer hours, thanks to the subsidy, and apparently could devote more time to their studies. For students who would not have worked without the employment subsidy program, their grades declined in the first year of work study, but their graduation rates didn’t suffer and they enjoyed positive effects on their later employment.
http://www.educationdive.com/news/research-shows-college-work-study-programs-generally-benefit-students/291483/

Citation:

Should Student Employment Be Subsidized? Conditional Counterfactuals and the Outcomes of Work-Study Participation
Judith Scott-Clayton, Veronica Minaya
NBER Working Paper No. 20329
Issued in July 2014
NBER Program(s): ED LS
Student employment subsidies are one of the largest types of federal employment subsidies, and one of the oldest forms of student aid. Yet it is unclear whether they help or harm students’ long term outcomes. We present a framework that decomposes overall effects into a weighted average of effects for marginal and inframarginal workers. We then develop an application of propensity scores, which we call conditional-counterfactual matching, in which we estimate the overall impact, and the impact under two distinct counterfactuals: working at an unsubsidized job, or not working at all. Finally, we estimate the effects of the largest student employment subsidy program—Federal Work-Study (FWS)—for a broad range of participants and outcomes. Our results suggest that about half of FWS participants are inframarginal workers, for whom FWS reduces hours worked and improves academic outcomes, but has little impact on future employment. For students who would not have worked otherwise, the pattern of effects reverses. With the exception of first-year GPA, we find scant evidence of negative effects of FWS for any outcome or subgroup. However, positive effects are largest for lower-income and lower-SAT subgroups, suggesting there may be gains to improved targeting of funds.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Resources:

Five Ways to Cut the Cost of College
http://www.cnbc.com/id/41626500/Five_Ways_to_Cut_the_Cost_of_College

Secrets to paying for college http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/27/pf/college/tuition-costs.moneymag/index.htm

College Preparation Checklist https://studentaid.ed.gov/sites/default/files/college-prep-checklist.pdf

Federal Student Aid http://studentaid.ed.gov/resources

Related:

Choosing the right college for you https://drwilda.com/2012/04/15/choosing-the-right-college-for-you/

Many U.S. colleges use the ‘Common Application’ https://drwilda.com/tag/college-cost/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART© http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda Reviews ©
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