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The social, educational and cognitive factors of success in the first year of university: A case study

Abstract : The main objective of this study, which evaluated a sample of first-year students enrolled at the University of Burgundy, France, in 2010-2011, is to understand the factors determining success in the first year of university. The originality of this research lies in the inclusion of specific indicators of students' skills when they start university within the explanatory models of educational achievement. These indicators include measures of academic performance (written comprehension skills) and cognitive abilities. While the impact of cognitive abilities on educational success has been examined at primary level in France, the present study is among the first to do this at higher education level, with the additional consideration of students' educational and social backgrounds. The results show the significant impact of educational background (repeated years, type of baccalaureate and baccalaureate grade) on success. The researchers also found that written comprehension skills and cognitive abilities alone play a limited role in explaining success, since the impacts of these variables are apparent throughout a student's educational career (and not just in higher education). Another finding was that subject choice based on specific career aspirations is an important factor associated with success - a significant insight which qualifies the impact of educational background.
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Sophie Morlaix, Bruno Suchaut. The social, educational and cognitive factors of success in the first year of university: A case study. International Review of Education, Springer Verlag, 2014, 60 (6), pp.841-862. ⟨10.1007/s11159-014-9459-4⟩. ⟨halshs-01141499⟩

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