Three Mindset Shifts That Can Help Students Succeed

by LG Happiness Project | June 18, 2020

Whether you are the first in your family to attend college or come from a long line of graduates, each student transitioning to college faces their own set of obstacles. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than half of college students fail to graduate within three years (at two-year colleges) or six years (at four-year colleges).

Researcher Chris Hulleman and athletics director Larry Happel write for UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center about the three mindset shifts that can help students succeed, especially when the odds are against them, known as the “mindset GPS”:

G stands for Growth
P stands for Purpose
S stands for Social


One way to overcome challenges is to adopt a growth mindset, by seeing obstacles or failures as an opportunity for learning rather than evidence that you’re lacking in talent. This type of thinking can help students persist and allow them to focus on what is in their control.

To help students cultivate a growth mindset, instructors and mentors should encourage them to evaluate their learning strategy and—if what they’re doing isn’t working—take a new approach. When students feel stagnant, trial-and-error and seeking feedback can help them make progress.


Whether big or small, a purpose helps people work harder and remain engaged in what they’re doing. Research by Hulleman and his colleagues suggests that when students are able to connect what they’re learning to what is important to them in life, they become more interested in school.

In order to cultivate purpose, instructors and mentors can invite students to reflect on how school aligns with their values and direction in life. For example, they can ask, “How can these classes get you closer to your goals?”


When entering a new situation, it is common to feel pressure around fitting in and relating to those around you. We may feel like we don’t belong—but that feeling is normal and often temporary, and it is important for students to understand that. Once they form relationships and begin to feel comfortable in their new situation, they are more likely to succeed.

To help students with a social mindset shift, remind them that others probably feel uncomfortable as well and may be waiting for someone else to reach out. Encourage them to make the first move and step out of their comfort zone.

Mindsets should be recognized as an important part of student success, one that can be taught and nurtured by teachers, coaches, and other caring adults. Students don’t struggle because there is something wrong with them; they struggle because adapting to new situations is hard. To learn more about the mindset GPS, read the full article (originally published on Behavioral Scientist) from the Greater Good Science Center, an Experience Happiness partner.