National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Fall 2017


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2017), pp 79-119


© Copyright 2017 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


Although academic success in honors programs is easily quantified, student thriving has not been previously measured. Honors students are often recruited to raise the academic profiles of their institutions (Carlson; Hebel) and so tend to excel academically in ways that can be measured by grades and graduation rates. Little is empirically known, however, about their holistic success and wellbeing while in college (Boazman; Moon; Slavin, Coladarci, & Pratt; Walker). Because they are no more immune than other students to psychological and social impediments, they may be succeeding but not thriving in their college experience. Thriving—defined as academic, psychological, and interpersonal wellbeing and engagement (Schreiner, “Thriving: Expanding”)—is a recent concept that expands the traditional approach of measuring college student success, which has historically been measured by such cognitive measures as GPA. Thriving measures malleable psychosocial factors—i.e., academic determination, engaged learning, positive perspective, diverse citizenship, and social connectedness—that influence student behavior and contribute to such key success outcomes as persistence and GPA. When college students thrive, they are fully engaged academically, psychologically, and socially; in essence, they are getting the most out of college. The main purpose of the present study was to develop a pictorial model of honors student thriving by investigating the pathways that predict a psychological sense of community, campus involvement, spirituality, student-faculty interaction, living on campus, certainty about a major, degree goals, and first choice of institution. This study further aimed to better understand honors students’ levels of academic determination, engaged learning, positive perspective, diverse citizenship, and social connectedness. Better understanding how honors students thrive can enable honors administrators, faculty, and staff to engage students in more productive and meaningful ways. We first provide readers with an overview of the pertinent research on honors students’ characteristics and thriving as a conceptual framework and then guide readers through the quantitative development and meaning of an emerging model of honors student thriving based on a national sample of honors students. Finally, we offer recommendations to honors educators about helping students thrive.