The Positive Influence Of Grit On Students' Success


There is a large range of factors that can go into determining a student’s success. Although some people would characterise some student as being ‘naturally smart’ there are actually multiple psychological factors that influence their success. This essay supports and provides evidence as to why grit has a stronger positive influence on student success than emotional intelligence or state of flow. Emotional intelligence showed little to no direct relations to students’ academic success and fails to provide substantial evidence that it is a necessary factor of success. State of flow provided much stronger evidence for the positive influence it has on student success, however limitation in the chosen research designs significantly impacted the strength and validity of the present argument. Moreover, the case studies analysed, provide consisted evidence that grit is a stronger positive influence that emotional intelligence or state of flow.

Grit has a stronger positive influence on student success than emotional intelligence or state of flow. Student success refers to the analysis of students performance in their academic field. Such success can be evaluated in several ways, such as grades, student satisfaction and retention. Knowing how to evaluate success and what influences it is extremely valuable when keeping the trajectory of student success rising. Students can better understand how to focus their time and energy to reach their desired goals and succeed academically. The purpose of this essay is to evaluate which factor has the largest positive influence on a student’s success. This essay will offer a thorough analysis of three factors that may have a positive influence on student success, grit, state of flow and emotional intelligence. By analysing these factors, it will be argued that grit has a stronger positive influence on student success than emotional intelligence or state of flow.


Grit can be referred to as a student’s determination and passion for a long-term goal. Grit involves committing to tasks and working proficiently and persistently towards a desired achievement. Even in times of failure and plateaus in progress, students that display grit remain devoted and passionate to their commitments – not just for weeks or months, but often for years and decades.

College students are usually well adapted and equipped with knowledge on how to succeed academically. However, not all students perform to their fullest potential. From this, we understand that students who work diligently, persevere through times of failure, and are passionate about long-term goals often academically perform better than their peers of similar abilities who exert less effort, less perseverance, and are less passionate. A study done by the Viterbo University collected data from 165 undergraduate students (27.3% male and 72.7% female) to find the connection between grit and academic success through student retention. The students level of grit was determined by using the Short Grit Scale (Grit-S). The Grit-S is an eight-item scale that has proven to have good internal consistency reliability, test-retest reliability, and predictive validity Participates in the study ranged in age from 18 – 45+ with the modal age range being 19-24. Students were also from a wide variety of ethnicities and cohorts (first year, second year, etc.) As hypothesised, grit was a significant factor in accurately predicting retention rates. Additionally, there was no difference between genders and their levels of grit (Saunders-Scott et al., 2018). Although the Grit-S Scale has proven consistent reliability and predictability, there are some limitations worth noting. The scale used to measure grit was a ‘short’ scale rather than a ‘long’ scale (Gonzalez et al., 2019). Short scales are often able to retain a considerable amount of the criterion validity of longer scales, they can sometimes be content deficient compared to those on the longer scales, which can lead to weakened and greater variable criterion correlations (Lechner et al., 2019). It is also acknowledged that participants may have responded positively to items on the Grit–S for the desire of achievement in the future. Despite these minor limitations, the Grit-S accurately and positively proved the correlation between grit and students success through college retention.

This argument can be further discussed through a study done by Duckworth et al., (2007) that explored whether grit had a positive correlation with higher GPA’s among undergraduates at an elite university. This study was completed by 139 undergraduate students studying psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (69% female 39% men) (Duckworth et al., 2007). Similar to the Viterbo study, this case study was also measured using the Grit-S system. As hypothesised, results showed that grittier students outperformed their less gritty peers, with higher levels of grit being directly correlated with higher GPA scores.

The influence grit has on student success is further proven in a study done by Palisoc et al., (2017) at the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Touro University College of Pharmacy. 98 pharmacy students took the Grit-S and the results showed a significant positive correlation between high levels of grit with student retention and academic success. Students were more likely to pursue postgraduate training with higher academic success and were more likely to obtain a post-graduate training position.

These case studies, along with the high validity and consistent reliability of the Grit-S further support the argument that grit has a strong positive influence on student success.

Emotional Intelligence

Another possible factor that may influence student success is emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional intelligence refers to the intelligence a person displays when they are able to process emotional information and use it effectively for reasoning and other cognitive activities. The influence that emotional intelligence has on student success was analysed by MacCann et al., (2019) using citation reviews and the meta-analyses of 6163 relevant study citations focusing on students GPA’s and Standardised Test Scores. The studies covered a broad spectrum of participants with ages ranging between 7 and 40 with a median age of 19.5. The subjects were also from a range of educational levels, divided into three categories, Primary (7.6%) Secondary (32.3%) and Tertiary (59.6%) and were represented across 27 countries. The study showed that EI only shows a small to moderate positive relationship within the students' academic performance. Furthermore, research done by Mohzan et al., (2013) does not support the theory that emotional intelligence has a positive influence on student success. 278 bachelor’s degree students at the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Malaysia took part in a quantitative study by completing a Likert style questionnaire. The study found that there was “no significant relationship” between emotional intelligence and academic achievement.

It is acknowledged that emotional intelligence may have a small positive influence on students success. However, even though a wide variety of participants were studied using valid techniques, specifically in the first study, it is clear that the levels of success concerning EI is subpar compared to higher levels of grit in relation to academic success.

State of Flow

It is believed that the state of flow may also influence student success. State of flow is characterised as a state of complete concentration in which all the required mental faculties are used to solve the learning tasks at hand, an important process that has been thought to enhance learning experiences (Buil et al., 2017). A study by Elias et al., (2010) was conducted to examine the relationship of flow and six motivational forces (future time perspective, achievement need, learning goals, self-efficacy, expectancy values and self-determination) in high school students. 94 sixteen-year-old Malaysian students (56 females, 38 males) were given a set of questionnaires to measure their levels of flow and the six motivational forces. The study found that there were, in fact, positive correlations between the six motivational forces and flow. However, even though flow has the potential to better improve a student’s understanding and engagement, it proposes that a complete combination of the six motivational forces is needed to improve success, not simply flow on its own.

Further research was done by Sumaya & Darling (2018) to discover what impact procrastination and flow has on academic performance by using the Experience Sampling Method (EMS) in real-time. Fourteen psychology students participated by completing self-reported EMS surveys relating to a research essay they were currently working on. The final results showed that students who procrastinated and experienced flow had better academic outcomes on their major research essay compared to students that did not experience flow. While an effective and valid research design was used to support the fact that state of flow has a positive influence on academic success, it does have limitations impacting the strength of their argument. Firstly, the size of their subject recruitment. Only fourteen students participated in this study. The data accumulated from only fourteen individuals cannot accurately represent the effect that flow has on students success. Secondly, the participants were all students studying degrees in the same field, further limiting the diversity of participants. These limitations significantly impact the strength and validity of the argument that flow has a direct positive influence on student success in comparison to the influence of grit.


In conclusion, the research and analysis conducted by the Viterbo University, Duckworth et al., (2007) and Palisoc et al., (2017) using diverse samples and valid research designs consistently support the notion that grit has a strong positive influence on student success. The consistent reliability and validity of the Grit-S, a scale designed specifically to measure levels of grit further strengthens the results of all three case studies. Specifically, how grit was able to be directly and positively correlated with student retention, GPA scores and post-graduate training. In contrast, evidence gathered that emotional intelligence has a positive influence on student success, only displayed either small-moderate positive relations or no significant relations at all. Furthermore, evidence was also discovered to support the idea that state of flow has a positive influence on student success. While the evidence supported the hypotheses, both case studies analysed in this essay had significant limitations, weakening the strength and validity of the argument. This was evident through their lack of clarity on the effect of flow alone and the lack of diversity and subject recruitment. Therefore, the evidence supports that grit has a stronger positive influence on student success than emotional intelligence or state of flow. 

16 December 2021
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