According to the results of a new study from researchers at Oregon State University, preschool children who are able to stay on task and pay attention are 50 percent more likely to complete college.
The study tracked more than 430 kids and suggests that behavioral and social abilities might be more important than academic skills when it comes to predicting college success. Attentional skills were assessed at age four, while reading and math skills were tested at the ages of 7 and 21. Kids whose parents rated them high on persistance and ability to pay attention at age 4 were 50 percent more likely to have completed a bachelor's degree by age 25. Perhaps most surprising, strong math and reading skills were not found to predict whether kids would go on to complete college.
"There is a big push now to teach children early academic skills at the preschool level," explains the study's lead author Megan McClelland, an OSU early child development researcher. "Our study shows that the biggest predictor of college completion wasn't math or reading skills, but whether or not they were able to pay attention and finish tasks at age 4."
Perhaps the best news is that these crucial skills can be taught. McLelland suggests that simple games such as Red Light/Green Light and Red Rover can be useful tools for teaching kids self-regulation and literacy skills.
"Academic ability carries you a long way, but these other skills are also important," she advises. "Increasingly, we see that the ability to listen, pay attention, and complete important tasks is crucial for success later in life."
McClelland, M. M., Acock, A. C., Piccinin, A., Rhea, S. A., & Stallings, M. C.. (2012). Relations between preschool attention span-persistence and age 25 educational outcomes. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.07.008
Image by Weliton Slima