National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2017


Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Spring/Summer 2017, Volume 18. Number 1.


Copyright 2017 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


While studies of predictive factors for success in honors have been increasingly creative and expansive on what these factors might include, they have rarely challenged the dominant, virtually monolithic definitions of success. The majority of studies measure success either by collegiate grade point averages (GPAs) or retention rates in honors, which are often contingent on collegiate GPA. For years scholars have been calling for a more nuanced and robust definition of success, yet few have taken up the charge, presumably because such data are not readily available. GPAs and retention rates are easy to access and quantify. Tracking and quantifying other successes are more difficult but potentially invaluable in helping to better match students and programs.

In the present study, we consider success according to a range of factors: national, local, and campus-wide academic awards; membership in honor societies; presentations at regional, national, or international academic conferences; peer-reviewed academic publications; graduate school attendance; job placements at the time of graduation; leadership roles in extracurricular activities; and faculty mentor assessment. This work suggests that while standardized tests may be marginally useful for making initial invitations to honors programs, high school GPA (HSGPA) is more useful for distinguishing success among high-achieving students. Further, HSGPA is at least somewhat predictive not just of collegiate GPA but also of program retention, success in the major, high-quality research, positive mentor evaluation, likelihood of invitation and admittance to national honors societies, and receiving awards. However, caution must be taken in using HSGPA to predict success in honors programs. The data indicate that the vast majority of the determinants of collegiate success result from factors that have yet to be measured by honors directors.