College Essay Examples

Examining The Effect of Self-Esteem on Academic Performance in College Students

As Ulrich (2010) surmised, researchers across multiple disciplines have long been and will continue to be interested in self-esteem’s role in academic performance. For example, sociologists consider self-esteem to play an important role in developing one’s identity, yet it remains largely unclear how this influences one’s academic success at any level (Booth & Gerard, 2011; Ulrich, 2010). Understanding the role of self-esteem in academic achievement, if any, will allow for a better understanding of what students who are academically successful share. Thus, the impetus for examining the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement is borne.

This proposed research study will examine the effect that self-esteem has on academic achievement, which are variables that have been shown to influence or predict student academic achievement in college settings. A listing of five references that will, in part, serve as the guiding basis for the proposed study is included in Appendix A.

Examining The Effect of Self-Esteem on Academic Performance in College Students


Examining the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement in a post-secondary population is important for many reasons. First, the self-esteem model of Ross and Broh (2000) posits that those with higher self-worth tend to have greater academic success than those with low self-worth. Of course, self-worth is a term often used interchangeably with self-esteem. Still, the point remains that if poor academic performance leads to a negative view of oneself, then understanding the relationship between these two variables becomes vitally important. Moreover, extant research suggests that there is a strong, positive relationship between the two factors of academic accomplishment and self-esteem (Freih, 2005; Van Laar, 2000).

There is an unclear cause-and-effect relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement. Specifically, there appears to be contradicting research on which variable represents the cause and which represents the effect. For example, Arshad, Zaidi, and Mahmood (2015) found that self-esteem appears to influence academic performance in university students. Conversely, Booth and Gerard (2011) found minimal support for the effect of self-esteem on academic performance, but that perhaps academic performance influences self-esteem. Even though the two variables may be intertwined and potentially affect each other, it can likely be inferred that self-esteem seems to have a stronger effect on academic performance (Ulrich, 2010).

Research Goals and Question

The research largely does not appear to portray a cause-and-effect relationship between self-esteem and academic accomplishment. Thus, a correlational study is warranted to examine the relationship more closely between these variables. This study will aim to examine whether students’ self-esteem influences the academic performance of students. Here, the predictor variable (PV) will be the self-esteem of the students, and the criterion variable (CV) will be the students’ academic performance. Accordingly, the following will serve as the guiding research question:

RQ1: What is the relationship between students’ self-esteem and their academic performance?


This section presents a proposed research design, anticipated participant population, and some basic information regarding the chosen population.

Research Design

The proposed study will utilize a non-experimental, correlational quantitative research design. This research design, using electronic surveys for data collection, is viewed as an appropriate method for this study. A major advantage of quantitative research designs is that the techniques often improve objectivity and generalizability (Martin & Bridgmon, 2012). As Castellan (2010) described, the use of surveys to collect data allows respondents to anonymously answer standardized questions, thereby improving reliability and validity. Further, Castellan (2010) emphasized the importance of standardization in enabling the generalization of findings. Finally, using online surveys allows for gathering data with relatively minimal cost, can be administered with ease, and be done in a comparatively short time frame (Creswell, 2013). For this proposed study, a pre-existing questionnaire will be used.


The main population of interest are approximately 100 full-time and part-time students currently enrolled in studies at the post-secondary institution. Ideally, a range of backgrounds will constitute the participants (e.g., age, gender, cultural/racial background), but this cannot be controlled due to the researcher not selecting the participants. Recruitment to the participant sample for this study will occur through the proper institutional channels, allowing students at this university to participate.

Analysis of Data

Descriptive statistics for the demographic variables in relation to academic performance will be analyzed. For example, age, gender, race, and ethnicity, and whether the participant has learning disabilities. A Chi-squared test or a T-test might be warranted to analyze the descriptive variables.

Correlations will be used to measure the result of the study. Thematic analyses will be useful for analyzed the gathered data in the survey, since it will allow for the derivation of a theme from the results. Thematic analysis is the best approach to analyze the results from this study because it is likely that the information obtained from the survey will be varied. Pearson’s R can be used to compute the correlation between the two variables, self-esteem and academic achievement. Pearson correlation can further be used to analyze this set of data to determine the direction and strength of the linear relationship between the two variables.

Other Variables

The relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement is an area of research that has attracted the attention of many researchers from across many disciplines. This has resulted in considerable research on extraneous variables that merit consideration due to their potential to influence academic performance. Notably, Bridgeman and Shipman (1978) indicated that developing positive attitudes and establishing healthy work habits are often prerequisites for academic success. However, these do not necessarily determine success either. Meanwhile, it might make sense to control for other variables that might potentially influence the results. For example, socio-economic status (low, middle, high), learning disabilities (yes, no), race and ethnicity, employment status while in studies (yes, no, full-time, part-time), age, and gender.  Characteristics of the instructor and their teaching style might also be an extraneous variable, as suggested by Booth and Gerard (2011).

Ethical Considerations

As the American Sociological Association (1998) describes, researchers at any level are obligated to adhere to a strict code of ethics. Prior to the study’s commencement, approval will be sought from the institutional Research Ethics Board, since this study will involve use of human participants. Informed consent will be obtained from all participants before the study. It is imperative that all participants are aware they are participating in a research study, and understand the general context of the study, and that any participation is voluntary. That is, all students should be assured that participation is voluntary, that refusal to participate will have no adverse effects on them, and that no coercion to participate occurs.

The ethical consideration of confidentiality and anonymity will also strive to be fulfilled. For example, ensuring that any online survey tools used allow for anonymized results and that the data cannot be traced to specific participants, even though IP addresses (Buchanan & Hvizdak, 2009). This is particularly important with the use of online survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey, as the involved researchers must be diligent to uphold privacy regulations and anonymity (Buchanan & Hvizdak, 2009). Also, students disclosing information pertaining to emotional status and their self-esteem levels is something deeply personal. Thus, the safeguarding of privacy, anonymity, and security of the information is of utmost importance.


American Sociological Association. (1999). Code of ethics and policies and procedures on the ASA committee on ethics.

Arshad, M., Zaidi, S.Y., & Mahmood, K. (2015). Self-esteem and academic performance among university students. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(1), 156-162.

Booth, M.Z., & Gerard, J.M. (2011). Self-esteem and academic achievement: A comparative study of adolescent students in England and the United States. Compare, 41(5), 629-648.

Buchanan, E.A., & Hvizdak, E.E. (2009). Online survey tools: Ethical and methodological concerns of human research ethics committees. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 37-48. doi:10.1525/jer.2009.4.2.37.

Castellan, J. (2010). Quantitative and qualitative research: A view for clarity. International Journal of Education, 2(2), 1-14.

Creswell, J. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method approaches. London, United Kingdom: Sage Publishers.

Martin, W.E., & Bridgmon, K.D. (2012). Quantitative and statistical research methods: From hypothesis to results. Wiley Publishing.

Ross, C.E., & Broh, B.A. (2000). The roles of self-esteem and the sense of personal control in the academic achievement process. Sociology of Education, 73(4), 270-284.

Ulrich, J.K. (2010). The relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement (Master’s thesis, Adler Graduate School).


Avatar photo

By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts