Confidence is often considered key to the success of ambitious students and professionals alike.
Now, a study reveals that not only has the message hit home for the newest college students, but also that confidence is at an all-time high among incoming college freshman, a result researchers categorized as an increase in “overconfidence” among students.
The study, released in the British psychology journal Self and Identity, revealed that in 2009, 60 percent of participants believed their intellectual ability was “above-average.”
Data has been collected on intellectual and social self-confidence, among other traits, by the UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research program since 1966, and the data collected in 2009 represented the highest percentage of students who described themselves as having high intellectual confidence in the study’s history.
Darnell Cole, associate professor of education, noted the trend of self-confidence among the newest college students stretched beyond academia.
“College students particularly have high levels of self-confidence across the board,” Cole said.
Jean Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State, described the increase as more than an increase in student’s abilities.
“It’s not just confidence. It’s overconfidence,” Twenge, who led the study, told the Associated Press.
Cole also noted that intellectual self-confidence has been connected with gender and academic major.
“Women typically come into college with slightly less self-confidence when compared to men,” Cole said.
The authors of the study argued the increased confidence might be a result of grade inflation, or assigning higher grades to work that would have received a lower mark in the past to bolster academic achievement. The study noted that in 1966 only 19 percent of students surveyed earned either an “A” or “A-minus” grade average in high school, in comparison to 48 percent in 2009.
In 1966, only 39 percent of students surveyed said their intellectual self-confidence was above average.
“Often, if you’re getting good grades all the time, then you tend to think you’re doing well,” Cole said. “If there is, indeed, grade inflation, then there is a higher sense of intellectual ability than is warranted.”
Once students get to college, self-confidence built by performance in high school can play a major role in their experiences.
“A correcting factor comes into play, there’s an adjustment,” Cole said. “For many [college students], college isn’t as easy as high school, so we do see adjustments to their intellectual sense of self.”