What Role Does Grit Play in the Academic Success of Black Male Collegians at Predominantly White Institutions?

by Terrell L. Strayhorn

Jan 1, 2013

This study tests the importance of a noncognitive trait, grit, to predicting grades for a sample of Black males attending a predominantly White institution. Using multivariate statistics and hierarchical regression techniques, results suggest that grit is positively related to college grades for Black males and that background traits, academic factors, and grit explain 24 % of the variance in Black male's college grades. Grit, alone, added incremental predictive validity over and beyond traditional measures of academic success such as high school grade point average and American College Test scores. Implications for policy and practice are highlighted.

  • This study provides compelling evidence that grit (the tendency to pursue long-term challenging goals with perseverance and passion) also influences grades in college for Black men at predominantly White institutions.
  • Grit positively predicts achievement in challenging domains over and beyond mere talent. That grit was correlated with Black male collegians’ grades, holding all other factors constant, underscores the significance of this trait to achievement.
  • Achievement is the product of talent and effort. In other words, it is not just the amount of energy Black males invest in a particular task at a given point in time, but rather the consistency of their effort toward long-term goals and the stamina with which they pursues those goals over time that matters most, especially for college outcomes that can take years to achieve.
  • Translated to practice, advisors might sponsor workshops for Black men that stress the importance of sustaining effort toward a particular goal (e.g., earning good grades) over time.
  • Isolated or one-time attempts to work hard or study long hours will likely have little to no influence on Black males’ college grades.
  • Sustained effort and hard work over time, despite setback or failure, is, in part, the formula for Black males’ academic success in college.