Attitudes and Mindsets that Support Success

September 27, 2021

Our research team has been studying non-cognitive and affective (NCA) factors for student success and ways to better support students in their undergraduate experiences. “NCA factors” is a fancy term for any factors not associated with testing, grades, and learning. We have investigated a wide range of attitudes, beliefs, mindsets, personality, and other factors that we have linked to successful outcomes like grades in courses, persistence toward a degree, wellbeing, and likelihood of disciplinary actions. From our research, we have found three practices that seem most promising for you to consider.

  • Envision your future. Take some time to consider the type of career that you want in the future, after you earn your degree. In your classes, consider how what you are learning is related to the future self that you want to become. It might be easier in some classes than others to make those connections. If you are not sure about how what you are learning is related, ask your professors or others in your field to help you make those connections.
  • Cultivate gratitude. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it becomes to notice things in daily life for which you are grateful. Many people build time into their regular schedule to reflect and write down 3-5 things that they appreciate. Another way to cultivate gratitude is to share the experience with others. Consider visiting a friend or writing a letter to someone you are personally grateful to have in your life. Be specific about what you are grateful for and the impact they’ve had on you. Gratitude may be among the greatest gifts we can give and receive. 
  • Consider some struggle as a normal part of development. Many significant accomplishments in life require effort and may involve failure. Earning your degree is no exception. It might be tempting to attribute those struggles to a lack of ability or let them make you question the future you envisioned, but it is important to remember that everyone struggles at times. Instead, consider what actions you might take, including reaching out to others or seeking help. Think of a setback as an opportunity to learn and grow. As you navigate these setbacks, also reflect on other times that you struggled and how you succeeded. When you think of challenges as opportunities to grow, you can find resources that you need to get back on track.

If you would like to learn more about this research project, you can visit We would like to thank the National Science Foundation for the support of this research (DUE-1626287). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Dr. Allison Godwin, Dr. Ed Berger, Dr. Michael Loui, Dr. Julianna Gesun, Justin Major, and Dr. Heather Perkins

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