Doing your best always makes the grade
Do you know young people who always try their best in school, without rewards or punishments dangling
over them? These students have found a reason to work hard; they have achievement motivation. Doing
well academically means different things to different people. It doesn’t have to mean getting straight A’s or
being the valedictorian. It does mean doing their best work and caring about their performance, whether
they’re creating an art portfolio or writing an essay. There are plenty of reasons to work hard in
school—getting good grades, making parents happy, or earning a spot on the honor roll. But the biggest
incentive for young people to do their best—in school and out—comes from within: personal pride from
knowing they gave it their all. Making an effort in school and other activities now, can give young people
more reasons to feel proud later on. Achievement Motivation is Asset 21 of Search Institute’s 40
Developmental Assets, the qualities, experiences, and relationships that help young people grow up
healthy, caring, and responsible.
Here are the facts
Research shows young people who try their best in school have better grades, are more likely to finish high
school, and are better at managing stress. They’re also better at setting goals and more likely to enroll in
college. About 65 percent of young people, ages 11–18, say they are motivated to do well in school,
according to Search Institute surveys. Help young people understand how important school is so they study
hard, pay attention, and do their homework.
Tips for building this asset
What drives the young people you know to do their best? Whatever their reasons, remind them that when
they try their best they can always feel good about the results, no matter what the grade.
Also try this
In your home and family: Ask your child about what motivates her or him to succeed in school.
Find out what challenges he or she faces and discuss ways to overcome them. Share any tips or
advice you learned from your own school experience.
In your neighborhood and community: When you say, “What’s new at school?” to young people
in your neighborhood, focus on their interests instead of their grades.
In your school or youth program: Discuss the following with young people: If your school or
program awards letters for any subject or activity, what would you like yours to be in? Why?