16 January 2018 | Category: Studying

Study success – what factors play a role?

By Hermien Miltenburg

Study success is the wish of all prospective students and their parents. The most important basis for study success is the careful choice of what to study. Prospective students who have thought carefully about their choice of study have a good chance of studying successfully. This is the principal conclusion of the research commissioned by the Dutch minister of education on study success.

Study success

What factors play a role in study success?

According to the researchers, there are thirteen factors that play a role. A prominent factor is the importance of choosing what to study. A well-chosen study is the best basis for study success at a university of applied sciences (HBO) or university. Is your son or daughter in the last phase of secondary school? You can actively support them in looking for the ideal study. The chooser, of course, must make their own choices and bear their own responsibility. But parents, deans and mentors can offer support. In the article below, I will list the success factors from the research and add my own comments.

Success factor 1: Information and visits

Successful students… consulted information sources more often and made more visits to educational institutions (study by Researchned).
We advise you to visit at least four Open Days and to especially compare institutions and programmes. The Open Days are followed by several days on which prospective students can attend classes (‘meeloopdagen’). Would your son or daughter like you to go with them to an Open Day? Don’t miss this chance to really contribute to your child’s study success.

Success factor 2: Search for information

Successful students… feel that they have thought carefully about and collected a lot of information on their chosen study. They make their choices earlier.
It is very important to search for a lot of information. The chooser should not just read the information provided by the institution. It is also important to look at the national Student Questionnaire (unfortunately only available in Dutch). How do other students evaluate this programme? And what is the institution’s reputation?
Beginning on time is clearly a success factor. In the pre-examination year of secondary school, prospective students should visit a lot of Open Days. It’s handy if you also attend a parents’ evening at school about choosing a study. Then you know what your child can expect.

Success factor 3: Interesting, suits capacities and professional wishes

Successful students… have more often chosen a programme of studies because the subject interests them, it suits their capacities/skills and because of the profession they later wish to follow. Their choices are less frequently based on a higher salary.
Students must feel passionate about the subject they choose to study. Ask your son or daughter to pay special attention to the subjects taught in the first year. Is there a lot of chemistry, and is that not your best subject? Perhaps this choice isn’t the best one.
Students must also think carefully about the level. Not every student will be successful at the research university level. Sometimes a HBO (university of applied sciences) programme is better.

Success factor 4: Which institution?

Successful students… have more often chosen their institution because of its better atmosphere, better teaching methods and its more personal/small-scale character. The often choose their university/HBO because of its more attractive buildings and facilities rather than its proximity to home. Generally speaking, they have higher expectations of their programme of studies, the institution and student life. Even as beginning students, they feel more optimistic about eventually graduating. They have more often had a study orientation or intake discussion at the start of their programme.
It’s very important to compare institutions. What suits you? Where do you feel at home? Students should not base their choice on a city but on the programme itself. A study choice check is an important final control.

Success factor 5: Feeling connected and a good start

Successful students… feel more strongly connected to their studies; from the beginning, they are more convinced that their chosen programme and later profession fully meets their interests and capacities.
A good start is important. A student can profit from building a strong (professional) network right from the start. The orientation period is essential to this because students then meet one another and form the first basis of a network that can sometimes be useful throughout their careers.

Success factor 6: Good profile

Successful students… have fewer regrets about their chosen profile at secondary school. They repeated a year of secondary school less often. They spent more time studying at secondary school and had higher marks.
Use foresight when choosing the subjects for your final examination year at secondary school. And think about which level of exam you’ll need. Is that the standard level or should it be at a high level?

Success factor 7: Effort

Successful students… showed more effort in their secondary school studies (tried for higher marks, less procrastination, good planning, etc.).
Being able to make good plans is very important in higher education. And effort is definitely needed to study for another 4-5 years. The tales of students who spent their student life partying are a thing of the past. Especially in the first year of the chosen programme of study, the focus must be on studying.

Success factor 8: Good supervision when choosing study programme

Successful students… more often feel that their secondary schools supervised them well when they chose their study programmes.
A good dean and a good mentor team are important at a secondary school. But don’t underestimate your own contribution. Almost half of those choosing a study programme think that you as a parent are the best advisor with regard to their choice of studies.

Success factor 9: Fewer doubts

Successful students… had fewer doubts about choosing between two or more programmes.
Is your son or daughter still in doubt? Don’t push them to make a rushed decision. Taking a gap year is perhaps a better idea…

Success factor 10: Gap year

Successful students… have more often taken a gap year between secondary school and higher education.
If a student is in doubt, he or she should perhaps choose a gap year. But even then, they have to focus on their choice of a study programme. A well-spent gap year often leads to a good choice. These students hardly ever drop out during their first year of study.

Success factor 11: Character

Successful students… score higher on questions about the character trait ‘diligence’ and score lower on ‘complacency’. They more often expect to feel at home in their programme of studies and institutions as wells as with students and teachers.
Once again: The person choosing a programme of study should choose an institution where he or she feels at home. That may not be the HBO or university in the most enjoyable city in the Netherlands… and perhaps the student will have to move into a rented room… But nevertheless, the study choice and the institute are more important than the location.

Success factor 12: Expect to work independently and with fewer study problems

Successful students… expect fewer study problems in general and especially with regard to working independently, to thinking critically/analysing problems and working together in project groups. They expect fewer problems with Dutch, maths and numeracy skills.
How much supervision is offered to first-year students? How many teachers are there? Working independently is important, but almost every student profits from good supervision. Compare institutions with one another on this point as well.

Success factor 13: Expectations

Successful students… more often expect that their programme of studies will be intensive.
That’s true: studying means hard work… Today’s students really have to work hard for their diploma. But that is a good basis for the rest of their professional lives.


By Hermien Miltenburg

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