The Influence of Academic Achievement on a College Student`s Self-esteem
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
BRAY, B. M. (2001). The Influence of Academic Achievement on a College Student`s Self-esteem. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

The Influence of Academic Achievement on a College Student`s Self-esteem
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (
Self-esteem is how people feel about themselves and how much they like themselves, especially socially and academically when it comes to college students. Through the many pressures and daunting responsibilities of being a student, one learns and understands the importance of having a high self-esteem in college. The original purpose of this study was to see if academic achievement had more of an affect on a college student`s self-esteem if that student was an Honors student versus a general student. Participants took the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale before and after a scheduled pscyhology exam. Data were collected from 64 college students and analyzed by a 2 X 2 mixed design factorial ANOVA, which compared the pre-test and post-test scores of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale depending whether or not the student received his/her true exam score or a score lowered by ten points. Significant results agree with previous research that academic achievement and self-esteem have a positive relationship.

Everyone`s self-esteem is influenced by many factors (Osborne, 1997). Parents, teachers, co-workers, friends, fellow classmates, and the environment are constantly influencing self-esteem. Self-esteem is the product of two internal assessments or judgments, the global judgment and one`s self-worth. The key to self-esteem is that the amount of discrepancy between what a person desires and what that person believes he/she has achieved and the overall sense of support that person feels from people around him/her (Rosenberg, 1965).

Having one`s academic achievement meet one`s academic expectations and desires is a major key to most college students` self-esteem. Having a high self-esteem has many positive effects and benefits, especially among college students. Students who feel positive about themselves have fewer sleepless nights, succumb less easily to pressures of conformity by peers, are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, are more persistent at difficult tasks, are happier and more sociable, and most pertinent to this study is that they tend to perform better academically. On the other hand, college students with a low self-esteem tend to be unhappy, less sociable, more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and are more vulnerable to depression, which are all correlated with lower academic achievement (Wiggins, 1994). Academic achievement is influenced by perceived competence, locus of control, autonomy, and motivation (Wiest, 1998). Past research has shown that self-esteem and academic achievement correlate directly to a moderate degree (Wiggins, 1994). Honors students tend to demonstrate higher academic self-esteem and competency. For them, this academic self-esteem seems to become a motivational factor (Moeller, 1994). For many college students their self-esteem is based or enforced by their academic success or achievements. The purpose of this study is to see if academic achievement has more of an effect on college students` self-esteem if that student is an Honors student compared to a General student.


Data were collected from 64 college students in Intermediate Psychology 200 at Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph, Missouri, which is a college of about 5,000 undergraduate students. All participants will be treated in accordance with the "Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct" (American Psychological Association, 1992).

The primary materials used were the Rosenberg self-esteem scale (See Example) and the professor`s exam. The Rosenberg scale is a clearly established and reliable scale.

A pre-existing group sampling was done with the two Intermediate Psychology 200 courses. A student researcher went to the two Psychology courses and administered the self-esteem scale to participants a week before a scheduled exam for the class. A week later the student researcher went back into the two classes and re-administered the self-esteem scale to the participants after their tests had been returned to them. Unbeknown to the students in one of the classes, however, their returned exam scores were actually one letter grade below their true grade. The other class received their correct exam scores. After completing the scale again, the participants were debriefed immediately afterwards and were given their correct examination scores.

A 2 (pre-test/post-test) X 2 (actual exam score/lowered exam score) mixed design factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the pre-test and post-test scores of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale depending on whether or not students received their true exam score or score lowered by ten points. No significant main effect was found between the pre-test and the post-test (F(1,56)=2.64, p=.11). Also, a non-significant main effect for which group participants were in (experimental vs. control group) was found (F(1,56), p=.307, p=.582). However, a significant interaction was found (F(1,56)=6.77, p=.012) between the two groups and two tests. Results show that the self-esteem scores were significantly higher between the pre-test (m=30.64, sd=5.32) and post-test (m=31.04, sd=5.27) for participants who received the true exam score information than those students who had received the false lowered exam score (pre-test, m=31.0, sd=4.88; post-test, m=29.3, sd=4.42).

The results of this experiment were consistent with my original hypothesis that the control group, or the class who received correct test scores, would have a higher post-test self-esteem than the experimental group. These results are consistent with previous similar research. Despite the previous consistencies, there were several limitations to this study. The original purpose of this study was to see if academic achievement had more influence on one`s self-esteem when that student was an Honors student more than it would a general student, using an Honors General Psychology 101 class and a General Psychology 101 class. However, when the incorrect test scores were given to the Honors class they quickly discovered that the scores were not their correct scores. Due to this lack of control, the experiment was then switched to Intermediate Psychology 200 classes. Based on the results, I believe that these results would generalize to the public because of the participants` varying age. In addition to age, gender and race did not seem to be influential factors in the number of errors. However, to generalize these results to the public a much more comprehensive experiment with a greater number of participants and a more diverse sample needs to be conducted. This study could possibly lay the foundation for several future research into the effects of academic achievement on self-esteem, especially another experiment with more control at looking at Honors students versus general students again.

Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, R.T. (1993). Impact of cooperative and individualistic learning on high-ability students` achievement, self-esteem, and social acceptance. Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 839. Moeller, T.G. (1994). What research says about self-esteem and academic performance. Education Digest, 34. Osborne, J. (1997, July). Identification with academics and academic success among community college students. Community College Review. 25. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Wiest, D.J., Wong, E.H., & Kreil, D.A. (1998). Predictors of global self-worth and academic performance among regular education, learning disabled, and continuation high school students. Adolescence, 22, 601. Wiggins, J., & Schatz, E.L. (1994). The relationship of self-esteem to grades, achievement scores, and other factors critical to school success. School Counselor, 41, 239.

Read each statement below. Decide the extent to which you agree with each statement. Then circle the number that corresponds with your answer.1-Strongly Agree 2-Agree 3-Disagree 4-Strongly Disagree

1. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself.1 2 3 4 2. At times, I think I am no good at all.1 2 3 43. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.1 2 3 44. I am able to do things as well as most other people1 2 3 45. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.1 2 3 46. I certainly feel useless at times.1 2 3 47. I feel that Iím a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others.1 2 3 48. I wish I could have more respect for myself.1 2 3 49. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.1 2 3 410. I take a positive attitude toward myself.1 2 3 4

Year in College___________________________ Are you in the Honors Program? ___Yes ___NoIf Yes, when did you enter?_______________________If No, are you eligible for the Program?______________

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Submitted 4/22/01 3:56:46 PM
Last Edited 5/1/01 1:47:47 PM
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