Assignment 4: Is Grit Necessary For Students?

Is Grit Necessary For Students?

The Relationship of Grit and Academic Performance Among College Students

Mengji Xie

UWP 1 018

Professor Zugnoni

Word Count: 2350



What is grit? How does it connect with students’ academic achievements? In this research paper, I will combine grit and long-term academic achievements into one topic by analyzing the relationship between them. The paper focuses specifically on the influences of being gritty on students’ academic achievements. The examples and information that are provided will focus on college students in the United States, but there will be relevant examples of foreign college students. The field research will be in the form of a survey, which demonstrates the relationship of Grit Scale and GPA. Moreover, the paper will discuss the question wether grit is an inborn ability or not, as well as the method to develop the quality of persistence.

Key word: grit, long-term, academic performance, development


Nowadays,the controversy of the significance of persistence is getting more and more intense. The topic of persistence is actually a formal research topic, and scholars and researchers alike have started conducting experiments and investigating on this topic. There are people claiming that talent determines the level of achievements of a person, while others argue that perseverance is the decisive element of a person’s success. Grit, as the synonym of persistence and adherence, is a specific quality that is defined as the “perseverance and passion for a long-term goal” by Macarthur Fellow and University of Pennsylvania psychological researcher, Angela L. Duckworth (2007) ( p.1087). In fact, grit is necessary for students because it helps students achieve long-term academic success, and it is crucial for students to take measures to develop the quality of persistence since grit is not an inborn ability.



Studies about Grit

First of all, let us look at a study that emphasizes the connection between outstanding performances and grit among cadets of West Point Military Academy. The study was conducted by Duckworth herself at West Point Military Academy. According to Duckworth (2007), the West Point Military Academy graduates nearly twenty-five percent of all the U.S.A officers. West Point Military Academy has developed its own synthetical evaluation system, called the Whole Candidate Score, to judge upcoming cadets and predict which of them will survive the demands of the academy (Glei, 2014).  Duckworth (2007) also noted that the admission of West Point Military Academy relies heavily on the Whole Candidate Score, which includes SAT scores, class rank, demonstrated leadership aptitude, and physical capacity. The admission process is very rigid, but 5 percent of cadets are eliminated during the grueling summer training course known as Beast Barracks, before their freshman year. The purpose of the study is to investigate how grit predicts who would stay. In the first couple days, cadets would take a short questionnaire about grit with all the other routine tests, then Duckworth and her whole crew waited until the end of the summer. The results were stunning, which shows that grit is the best indicator of which cadet would stay in the West Point Military Academy after a tough summer training. Actually, it is much better than other predictors such as the Whole Candidate Score, which the West Point Military Academy previously thought was the best indicator(Duckworth, 2007). In this case, those cadets who stayed were those who performed well in the summer training, and grit predicts efficiently who would stay. Therefore, this study suggests that grit connects tightly with remarkable performances. In West Point, grit is necessary for cadets who want to stay and achieve further success.

Apart from the cadets of West Point Military Academy, Duckworth (2007) has implemented the same study on many other groups such as the National Spelling Bee contestants, first-year teachers in tough schools, etc. In the case of the National Spelling Bee contest, it turned out that grit was the best indicator of success. According to this study on different groups of people, grit, the ability to persevere and passionately strive for long term goals, is the best indicator of good performances.

After discussing the relationship between outstanding performances and grit, let us focus on this study that measures the correlation between grit and high GPA among college students. The study was also conducted by Angela Duckworth. The study method is to select 139 undergraduates students in University of Pennsylvania who majored in psychology. Those students all got outstanding SAT scores, which shows that they were top students in terms of the SAT. They would complete the Grit scale and fill in other necessary information such as current GPA, expected year of graduation, etc. The result of this study, as Duckworth (2007) expected, shows that both GPA and SAT scores are related to grit. However, the relationship between GPA and grit is even stronger than that of SAT and grit. Also, according to Duckworth (2007), the more gritty students surpassed their peers who were less gritty. The process of achieving high GPA is longer than the process of achieving high SAT scores, and it usually requires more endeavor. Therefore, outstanding GPA, as a long term goal for college students, is more likely to be achieved by gritty students. Thus, grit is a necessary quality for students as it helps students attain chronic academic success.

The studies that Duckworth conducted are specific and professional, so those studies provide great support for the demonstration of the significance of grit. Now, let us take a look at a field research that was carried by myself: the survey data about the grit. The purpose of this survey is to show the connection between the scores on the Grit Scale and GPA among good and top college students. I send the link to Professor Angela Duckworth’s “Grit Scale” to 10 students in various universities, and then I asked them to take the test and tell me their scores. After that, I collected the information of their GPA, which represent their academic performances. Finally, I completed a chart that shows the relationship between the scores on the Grit Scale and their GPA. Here is the chart:


                                                                      “Grit” survey data
Student Name        Grit Scale            Student   Major &  GPA
Xiangyi Gao 3.33 Electrical Engineering           3.54
Xinwen He 3.55 Mechanical Engineering         3.70
Yixin Hu 3.79 Computer Science                 3.84
Sheng Yang 3.03 Applied Mathematics             3.08
Haochun Bao 3.25 Electrical Engineering           3.46
Yumeng Wang 4.25 Applied Mathematics             3.93
Runnan Zhang 4.75 Undeclared                             3.40
Puxuan Cao 3.45 Civil Engineering                   3.62
Yuxuan Hou 3.65 Finance                                 3.60
Haoxiang Kuai 4.35 Communication                   4.00


The students who take the test are all students from some prestigious universities, such as University of Toronto, University College London, University of California, Davis and so on, hence the overall quality of those students are very high. Generally speaking, the higher the score on Grit Scale the student gets, the higher the GPA the student attains. In other words, there is a relatively linear relationship between grit and academic performance. However, if a good student want to attain an GPA of 3.80+ and become a top student, he or she needs to make a lot more effort than before. This field research visualizes the relationship between grit and academic success, and it indicates the necessity of grit for students as it clearly illustrates that grit helps students achieve long-term academic success.

For college students, outstanding academic performances is the success that they wish to achieve, and the process of pursing this goal is a long one. By combining grit and academic performances together, we get: grit, defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” by Duckworth, is essential for students since it predicts remarkable academic performances.


Grit and Long-Term Academic Performances

The studies above indicate that grit is an indispensable factor for academic success of students. It is time to explore grit in more depth, and analyzeexplicitly how being gritty pushes students’ long-term academic success.

Learning is an endless process. People start learning from the first second they were born, and keep learning until the last second. Students, as a particular group of people, have to put in a lot of efforts on learning process due to requirements of good academic standards. Thus, setting long-term goals is crucial for students as long-term goals promote students’ initiative of learning. Setting goals provides tangible objectives for students to strive for. When students achieve those goals one by one, they get pleasure and a sense of accomplishments, which promotes willingness for learning. If students do not have any specific plan on academic materials, they cannot ensure what they really achieved and their passion towards the learning process will be negatively affected. Thus, long-term goals motivate students to learn, and those goals make sure that students develop on the right track. Consequently, students who set and achieve long-term academic goals are more likely to be successful in terms of academic performances.

However, setting long term goals is a lot easier than working towards those goals. For instance, if a student’s long-term goal is to attain high GPA but he or she does not put in any effort, the student will never achieve his or her goal. As the example illustrates, students will not achieve their long term goals if they do not strive for those goals, so long term goals are just “mirage” if students indulge in “empty talk” and do not make efforts.

That is when grit becomes necessary for students in terms of their academic performances. Striving for long term objectives requires constant and sustainable endeavors in a long period of time. During the process of achieving long term goals, students may lose their interest since learning academical material is not a very interesting task. At the same time, students may encounter countless frustrations and difficulties that may destroy their confidence and enthusiasm towards their long term goals. If students aim to outstandingly achieve academically in the “long run,” they have to combine passion with an unswerving dedication to the learning process . They will not give up, no matter what obstacles are and how long it takes.

The Editor-in-Chief and Director of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei (2014) claimed that there are two qualities that can efficiently predicts outstanding achievement: “the tendency not to abandon tasks from mere changeability” and “the tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles”.  Duckworth (2007) defined a quality she called “grit,” which defined as “the perseverance and passion for a long-term goal” in her research paper (p.1087). The definition includes the two characteristics discussed above. Thus, a girtty student has not only the ability to be persistent in making efforts but also focused enthusiasm and consistent interest towards the goals over a long period of time. Also, when there is adversity and failure, the student can respond resiliently. The student will learn and develop from those unsuccessful experiences, then keep working hard in order to achieve his or her long term goals. Therefore, grit is necessary for students because it provides the ability for students to keep striving for long-term goals, thus grit does help students achieve academic success.


Development of Grit

The studies that Duckworth conducted demonstrate the significance of grit. However, those studies raised a nagging question. That is, is grit a congenital ability just like intelligence? Or it is a quality that can be developed? A significant instinctive ability is a talent. Grit, as a prominent quality, should be a talent if it is an inborn ability. However, in the Ted Talk: The key to success? Grit, Duckworth (2013) claimed that grit is unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent. The data of Duckworth’s studies show clearly that there are many talented individuals who do not stick out to their commitments. Education Correspondent Emily Hanford (2012) stated that it is still not clear that what really causes the difference in people’s grit level, but grit is an ability that people can learn according to Duckworth’s beliefs. Apparently, grit is not a natural ability, so it can be learned and developed.

The thing is how do students improve their own grit level? Fortunately, Duckworth (2013) provided a method for them, which is the growth mindset. Growth mindset means that the ability to learn is not fixed, and it can grow with a person’s effort. If students know how their abilities will grow as they make more efforts, they will be much more likely to persevere when they fail. As students persist and keep making effort in front of challenges, they will learn lessons and then develop from those failures. For those students who possess the quality of persistence, it is not about immediate perfection and inborn gift. It is about developing grit overtime: confronting challenges and making progress. In short, the process of striving to overcome difficulties is the process of building grit. Therefore, in order to develop grit, students need to understand that their potential is not fixed and they can always achieve more with more endeavors. Hopefully, as students come to realize the importance this understanding, they will make efforts towards their long-term goals on a regular basis, and their grit level is improved.



In conclusion,  grit is necessary for college students because it helps students attain long-term academic success and it predicts outstanding  achievements of students. Intuitively speaking, grit is a quality that can be developed. To do this, students need to understand that their ability is not fixed, hence they should keep putting efforts to achieve their long-term goals. After gritty students graduate and step into the society, they will be more positive and resilient towards obstacles in life, and more likely to achieve remarkable accomplishments.



Duckworth, A. (2013). The key to success ? Grit. video conference, retrieve from  w

Duckworth, A. & Peterson, C. (2007). Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92,  1087-1101.

Goodwin, B. & Miller, K. (2013). Research Says / Grit Plus Talent Equals Student Success,      Resilience and Learning, 71, 74-76.

Hanford, E. (2012), How Important is Grit in Student Achievement?, retrieved from

Jocelyn, K. (2011),  The Future of Self-Improvement, Part I: Grit Is More Important Than Talent, e retrieved from more-important-than-talent

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