What Makes A Student Succesful?

What Makes A Student Succesful?

10-20% of Bachelor students at Danish Universities drop their studies before obtaining a degree. This has severe consequences for society. Lower study success or dropping studies before obtaining a degree means that less human capital is accumulated. This imposes huge costs on individuals, because human capital is the key to success in the labor market. Moreover, it imposes costs on society while human capital is a key driver of economic growth in knowledge-based economies such as Denmark. The aim of this project is to shed light on this drop-out problematic.

Time period:


Target group:

Students at Aarhus University, Business and Social Science.  

Number of participants:

Around 3000 students in each cohort at Aarhus BSS; 650 of these in the survey.  


In 2013, 650 first year students at Aarhus BSS attended an incentivized online experiment. They faced computerized questions and simple measures from experimental economics to elicit a broad set of non-cognitive skills. Among the measures are risk aversion, present biasedness, strategic thinking and willingness to engage in competition. In addition, we elicit behavioral patterns regarding actual learning behavior, and self-regulation strategies that students adopt, such as setting personal goals.

These data are linked to the study registers at Aarhus BSS, which include, e.g., grades, time to graduation, or whether studies are dropped.

Further, during the observational period, there has been a major revision of the study regulations.


First, we ask which of the non-cognitive skills mentioned above and which self-regulation techniques correlate with student behavior. For example, are more self-controlled students less likely to drop-out? Second, we exploit the study regulation reform as a natural experiment. Under this reform, students are registered for 60ects per year. On the one hand, this can have a positive effect because it can be seen as a commitment device for students with a self-control problem to study regularly. Yet, on the other hand, this can have a negative effect. Previous research in behavioral economics has shown that while commitment can help those who in the end participate, they lead to high drop-out. We will examine whether the positive or negative effect dominates in the university environment and how different student groups (such as students with high/low self-control) are affected. Lastly, we examine the general patterns that lead to drop-out.  


Aarhus BSS, Det Frie Forskningsråd, AUFF.  


Exoected in 2018.


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