Students Gain More Than Knowledge at College

Pacific Standard: “A debate has emerged in recent years over whether a college education is really worth the expense and effort. After all, it is argued, emotional intelligence is a better predictor of success than academic learning. And universities don’t teach those skills, do they? Well, it turns out they do. That’s the takeaway from new Australian research, which finds a university education has a positive impact on two key personality traits—extroversion and agreeableness.”

The study, published in the journal Oxford Economic Papers, tracked 575 Australian adolescents over eight years. Their level of each of the “big five” personality traits—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—was measured in surveys taken just after they finished high school, and again four and eight years later. Thirty-three percent of participants ended up attending a university, and the researchers found that, after controlling for a variety of factors that could influence personality development—including gender, health, and socioeconomic status—the experience made a significant difference.”

“None of this implies there is only one way to develop the personality traits that will serve you well for life. But it does suggest a university is a great place to pick them up. And who knows?—you might even learn a few things in the process.”