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Relationship Between Gpa And Self Esteem Psychology Essay

Info: 5477 words (22 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 1970 in Psychology

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This research is testing the relationship between an individuals academic achievement using GPA and an individuals self-esteem using the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. The research evaluated the different literature reviews concerning the topic at hand and analyzing the research aspects in depth in order to get the most reliable, as well as accurate results to test the hypothesis’s validity. After collecting and analyzing the results, it was discovered that the hypothesis has been falsified. This finding was supported by several literature reviews investigated. Due to the presence of evidence for both arguments, it is encouraged for further research to take place in order to reach a solid conclusion.


Research statement:

This study is intended to examine the correlation between self-esteem and Grade Point Average (GPA). Once decided on the research topic a hypothesis was formulated. The hypothesis predicts that there will be a significant relationship between an individual’s self-esteem and GPA. This hypothesis was not only based on personal experience but on previously conducted researches as well.

Why is this research important:

This is a universal topic as college students worldwide can greatly relate to it, due to the fact that GPA reflects the effort of each individual throughout their academic years in university. Nowadays, college students are facing tremendous pressure in terms of maintaining a high GPA in order to pursue their post graduate life, whether it is to apply for a job, pursue their masters or just have a sense of accomplishment and self fulfillment by knowing that they have excelled in university life.

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As psychology major students it is very intriguing for us as a group to see the correlation between GPA and self esteem, and to study how different people perceive the importance of GPA and its impact on their self esteem. When looking at previous researches controversial results were found, as some studies suggest that there is a positive relationship between both variables while others suggest that there is no relationship between self-esteem and GPA, therefore it has been stated that the evidence is inconclusive (Geletko, 2006). This information was amongst the reason for choosing this specific topic, as it increased our interest as well as curiosity.

Objective of the study:

The objective of this study is to see whether the hypothesis stated will be verified or falsified. Moreover, throughout conducting the research in order to test the type of correlation between both variables, other factors may come into play thus affecting the relationship of the variables. Therefore, they should be greatly taken into consideration. These factors include, age, gender, nationality, major and academic standing. If there is a positive relationship between both variables the research will not only identify the presence of the relationship, it will also detect the degree to which each of the variables is affected by one another.

Literature Review

The Rosenberg self-esteem scale is the most commonly used self-esteem scale in the social sciences and was developed by Dr. Rosenberg, Sociology professor. It is designed in a form of ten questions that an individual is required to answer by strongly agreeing, agreeing, disagreeing and strongly disagreeing. After finishing the Questionnaire scores are calculated for each of the questions according to the answer and a final score is set for the individual. Dr. Rosenberg (1989) explained that the self-esteem is one of many variables of self-concept. He defines self-concept as “totality of the individual’s thoughts and feelings with reference to himself as an object” (Rosenberg, 1989). In order to calculate the surveys manually a value for each of the questions will assign as follows:

1. For items 1, 2, 4, 6, 7: Strongly Agree=3, Agree=2, Disagree=1, and Strongly Disagree=0.

2. For items 3, 5, 8,9,10 (which are reversed in valence, and noted with the asterisks** below): Strongly Agree=0 (Rosenberg, 1989),

Once the scores are added, the results range from 0 to 30 points (30 indicating the highest score and 0 the lowest). The normal scores vary between 15 and 25, and scores below 15 suggest low self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1989).

Referee to appendix 4 for the Rosenberg self-esteem scale.

After searching the Internet and looking for previously conducted researches with a similar topic to this specific research, it is reviled that most of the psychologists are using the Rosenberg self-esteem scale to calculate the results that they obtained.

The following articles represent the previous studies that have found a positive correlation between self-esteem and GPA. They will be discussed in this section and used as references within this research.

The study “Racial Identity, Self-Esteem, and Academic Achievement: Too Much Interpretation, Too Little Supporting Data” conducted by Lockett and Harrell (2003) tackles the problem of over-interpretation in research on racial identity attitudes and academic attainment. The study draws a “hierarchical linear regression procedure” to address the problem (Locket & Harrell, 2003). The researchers apply the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Attitude Scale and conducted a background questionnaire on a sample of 128 African American students. They used these methods to create a model that will inspect the relationship between racial identity, self-esteem and academic outcome. The results revealed that the effect of racial identity on academic outcome was insignificant. Furthermore, over 50% of racial identity’s effect on academic outcome is foretold by individual dissimilarities in self-esteem (Locket & Harrell, 2003).

Throughout “Self-Esteem and Academic Achievement: A case study ” by T. J. Wells(2002), he administered 3 different self esteem surveys, conducted on a total of 113 eighth grade students, within this sample of students 60 were females and 53 were males. The hypothesis of the study expected a significant relationship between the students GPA and their self-esteem scores. Students were grouped into five different categories based on their corresponding scores. Within the different categories it was found that there was a strong positive correlation between an individual’s GPA and self esteem scores. However, some anomalies were found as there was a negative correlation between GPA and self-esteem in a small number of participants (Wells, 2002), which was basically due to the dissimilarities between individuals perception of GPA importance. As some individuals find grades to be important while other do not.

Katherine Winning’s study (2009) “Self Esteem and Academic Success for Urban, Migrant, and High Socioeconomic students” was intended to decipher the relationship between social wellness, physical appearance, peer groups, athletic competence, scholastic competence and self-esteem on academic accomplishment. This study was conducted through interviewing 9 students. Each 3 represented students from high socioeconomic standard, migrant students or students from urban areas. The results showed a positive correlation between academic accomplishments and all variables except physical appearance and athletic competence (Winning, 2009).

According to Hellen Pullman and JuriAllik (2008) in their article “Relations of academic and general self – esteem to school achievement” a study conducted is demonstrated on a nationally representative sample of Estonian students and university applicants that self-esteem is a strong and accurate predictor of school achievement. Their results unveil that low self-esteem students and academically successful students have a more critical view of themselves than students with modest academic abilities (Pullman & Allik, 2008). Furthermore, generalized evaluation of self-worth has no significant impact on the personal academic achievement. That means that a person evaluation of self-worth, whether positive or negative, doesn’t affect their academic achievement significantly. Once the results were analyzed, it was revealed that students’ academic self-evaluation was related to academic achievement, reflecting quite accurately their performance at school (Pullman & Allik, 2008). Furthermore, it was suggested that students holding low self-esteem scores are more likely to highly academically achievement after leaving elementary school.

According to the upcoming articles, the results concluded that the finding were inconclusive as half of the sample for the following articles found a correlation between the two variables, while the other half showed no significant correlation. Thereby suggesting for further research to test the relationship.

The study of “Self-esteem, locus of control, collage adjustment, and GPA amongst first -and continuing- generation students: a moderator model of generational status” by Aspelmeier , Love, McGill, Elliott and Pierce (2012), aims to test the different effects of locus control and self-esteem on GPA between first and continuing generations. The study will look at the first generation students, who are currently undergraduate students in college and student who have graduated, who are of older generation who are referred to as continuing generations (Aspleimer, McGill, Elliott, & Pierce, 2012). Locus of controls is identified as the individual’s belief that they have the ability to manipulate external factors that influence them. After conducting the research, the results revealed that upon comparison, the first generation sample’s GPA is affected by negative or positive locus of control, while negative self-esteem was the only factor affecting GPA and the positive had no impact (Aspleimer, McGill, Elliott, & Pierce, 2012).

Jennifer L. Wiles (2004) in her study “understanding the relationship between self esteem and current grade point average of college undergraduates” explored the relationship between students of the fifth grade, eleventh grade, as well as undergraduates’ self esteem, both retrospective and current, and their current grade point average (GPA). The study was conducted on 95 West Virginia University students who were asked to complete the Rosenberg Self- Esteem Scale (Wiles, 2004). In analyzing the results, a significant relationship was present between fifth grade students GPA and their self-esteem, meaning the students that had a high GPA tended to have higher self esteem scores than other. On the other hand, both eleventh grade students and undergraduates’ results showed no correlation between GPA and self-esteem scores (Wiles, 2004).

According to Cokley, K. O. (2002) in the article titled “Ethnicity, gender and academic self-concept: A preliminary examination of academic disidentification and implications for psychologists.” It was stated that through the year’s research has shown that there is a correlation between ethnic, as well as racial differences when it comes to academics. Overall, reports show that European Americans perform higher on achievement and ability tests in comparison to African American students. African Americans generally have lower grades; this is explained by three contradicting views (Cokley, 2002).

The first two views are “nature versus nurture” nature perspective believes that African American intelligence is pre determined by genetics. Furthermore, this perspective indicates that African Americans biologically have a smaller brain and as a result have lower intelligence than European Americans. As for the third view known as “cultural view” meaning that the African American students have different values and priorities than those of European American students. Furthermore, placing African American students in an academic environment where they cannot flourish and thus are de-motivated to do well academically. To elaborate more about this point the author mentioned that generally grades were found to be more important to European Americans than to the African American sample (Cokley, 2002).

Moreover, the article mentions that the orthodox view concerning academics and self-esteem is that they are both positively correlated. The higher the student’s academic performance, the higher their self-esteem will be. Vice versa, the lower the student’s academic performance, the lower their self-esteem will be. As a result psychologists, educators and personnel within this field would say that African American students have low self-esteem due to their poor academic performance. However, no such evidence was found, reports indicate that African Americans tend to have a high self esteem. This is known as “academic disidentification” this term suggests that the more time you spend in education the less your academic performance is associated with one’s self concept. This “academic disidentification” is greatly found in African Americans (Cokley, 2002).

This study aims at testing the “academic disidentification theory”, and to also provide further research in the field of “academic disidentification and race” in school children in grad eight, nine and ten. Previous research found that “academic disidentification” was higher between black males than black females, within this research Cokley studies the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades and his research showed that only black males continued to have “academic disidentification” after school years into their collage years (Cokley, 2002).

The Method of the study; the sample of the study had 229 European Americans and 359 African Americans. All of which signed a consent from before participation in the research. Following the consent form the participants were given questionnaires to conduct the research (Cokley, 2002).

Moreover, the tools he used to carry out the research were “the academic-self concept scale”, the “Rosenberg self-esteem scale” and “grade point average” as for the methods he used ANOVA (Cokley, 2002). The results show that, firstly there was a positive correlation between academic self-concept and GPA for both European American and African American students. Furthermore, no correlation between “self esteem and GPA” However, there was a correlation between self-esteem and GPA in European Americans. Finally there was evidence to support “Academic disidentification” (Cokley, 2002).

The final set of articles concluded that there is no significant relationship between the two variables. Geletko (2006) tested the relationship between undergraduates’ self-esteem, current cumulative grade point average (otherwise known as GPA), race and gender. When looking at the self-esteem measure, Geletko used the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. The researcher used a three-way analysis between the variances of the variables. In addition, he also used correlation method and chi-square to test any further relationships between each of the variables together (Geletko, 2006). Looking at the results, Geletko concluded that there was no significant relationship between self-esteem and grade point average, yet the researcher discovered that race, as a variable is quite significant when related with self-esteem (Geletko, 2006). Geletko was quite interested in this research topic, as some researchers who found a significant relationship between self-esteem and academic achievement through two different ways. The main reason behind conducting this research was due to the inconclusive evidence surrounding the topic. Although there are various researches that try to tackle and understand the relationship between self-esteem and academic achievements, not all researches support the presence of a relationship between the two variables (Geletko, 2006).

This article has a very similar hypothesis with the research at hand, yet the results obtained within this specific article show no correlation between self-esteem and GPA. Furthermore, the author uses race as a third variable and the results have proven relationship between GPA and race (Geletko, 2006). This may be applicable to our research as AUC hosts a wide variety of nationalities.

The following thesis “GPA, Enjoyment, and Efficacy as Correlates to Self-Esteem of Peer Tutors as measured by the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale” by Samuel Young Choo (2008) examines two sectors:

The relationship between self-esteem and demographic variables such as grade point average (GPA), enjoyment of peer tutoring, or self-efficacy regarding peer tutoring. The researcher modified the RSE for clarity purposes (Choo, 2008).

The relationships between the demographic variables and each item of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. Pearson correlation analyses were used to corroborate relationships between the variables (Choo, 2008).

The researcher’s sample consisted of 22 peer tutors (5 males & 17 females) who work with students with disabilities in a high school. The results of the thesis show that neither GPA, nor enjoying tutoring, nor did self efficacy concerning tutoring have a correlation to the self-esteem scores within the study, which is contrary to the results of previous studies conducted on the same topic before this thesis (Choo, 2008). However, GPA and enjoyment were statistically connected with certain items of the RSE. That means that specific questions’ scores portrayed consistency, with GPA and enjoyment scores (Choo, 2008).


Experiment Design:

Within this research the method applied is the correlation method, which is used in studies to test the relationship between two variables; it also measures the extent to which each variable affects the other. Therefore, making this method ideal for the research at hand, as it will provide an accurate analysis of the correlation between GPA and Self Esteem. However, due to limitations of this method causation will not be identified; meaning whether self-esteem affects the GPA or whether GPA affects the self-esteem.


The tools that will be used to collect data in this research are questionnaires. This tool was specifically chosen as the variables used within this research are very complex and it is critical to ensure that there are no other variables affecting the relationship being tested. For an effective questionnaire that is participant friendly, it is required to divide the questionnaire into sections according to similarities. Therefore, the framework of the questionnaires is as follows, section one includes personal information, section two includes self-esteem information, and section three includes academic information.

Section one includes personal information; this section is composed if six questions. It enables the researchers to keep track of who took the questioner and who did not, as not to commit any error by giving the same person the questioner twice; it also makes it easy for researchers to track down the participant that took the questionnaire in case any further information is needed. Moreover, it allows researchers to be sure that all the participants are over the age of eighteen, their gender;known their nationality as well as the major.

In section two, when trying to calculate the individual’s self-esteem we entered the dilemma of choosing a reliable method that may be repeated. After further research, the Rosenberg Self Esteem scale was proven most appropriate. The Rosenberg self-esteem scale is the most commonly used self-esteem scale in the social sciences field; Dr. Rosenberg, aSociology professor, designed it. This includes ten questions that are answered in the form of a scale. This scale is represented as strongly agreeing, agreeing, disagreeing and strongly disagreeing. The score is calculated for each question based on the answers provided and a final score is then tallied for each individual. For the correct manual calculations, the assigned scores by Dr. Rosenberg are as follows

1. For items 1,2,4,6,7: Strongly Agree=3, Agree=2, Disagree=1, and Strongly Disagree=0.

2. For items 3,5,8,9,10 (which are reversed in valence, and noted with the asterisks** below): Strongly Agree=0, Agree=1, Disagree= 2, and Strongly Disagree= 3(Rosenberg, 1989)

Once the scores are added the results ranged from 0 to 30 points (30 indicating the highest score and 0 the lowest). The normal scores vary between 15 and 25, and scores below 15 suggest low self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1989).

Referrer to appendix 4

Section three addresses academic information. This section includes ten questions that are focused around GPA and academic life, as section two only looks at self-esteem; this section is designated to GPA. This section was created in order to obtain all the information necessary for the most accurate results possible. These questions will be measured using the same method as the Rosenberg self esteem. All the answers will be changed into scores, in order to be able to enter the data and calculate the correlation between the two variables.

Referee to appendix 2 for the Questionnaire.


To ensure that the questionnaire is clear and valid an implementation of a pretest was conducted, where students that fit the characteristics of the population tested will answer the questionnaire, provide any comments on the clarity of the questions and add suggestions for questions they had problems with. Accordingly the questions that posed a problem will be re-written, and the questionnaires will be modified.


The pretest was distributed amongst eight participants. The feedback is as follows, overall there were issues with the clarity of specific questions. The majority of the pretest participants found difficulty with question one in the academic information section. The problem was the vagueness of the question and the difficulty of understanding the definition of perception. In order to solve this problem the order of the questions will be changed by placing question ten before question one as question ten provides basis for the intended definition of perception therefore clarifying question one and excluding the need to add information or complicate the question. Another comment was to place the scales in a horizontal instead of a vertical layout in order to decrease the size of the questionnaire and thereby increasing the probability of participants answering the questionnaire, as it will not seem as long.


It was decided to conduct the study on sophomores, juniors and seniors due to the fact that they are above the age of eighteen. As a result they will be eligible to sign the consent form. The consent form will be presented before the questionnaires are issued; in order to make sure that the research is conducted ethically. It also insures that the participants agree to all aspects of the research and understands what it fully entails. Moreover, the research will be strictly confidential and will only be used for the purpose of this course; all participants will be informed of this fact, as it will be stated in the cover page in the form of a confidentiality statement.

Referee to appendix 3 for the Consent Form.

Referee to appendix 1 for the Cover Page.


This research is intend for AUC students, as AUC students will be more willing and accepting to participate in the research, being AUC students ourselves. The population sample for this study will be students in non-science majors, specifically students in the humanities field. These characteristics were chosen because the workload registered by the university is higher for science majors than it is for non-science. Therefore, it is not unreliable nor is it fair to use both in the same study.

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Thus it was decided to limit the sample to the Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Anthropology (SAPE) department students, as the workload is similar for these majors. We decided to use the systematic random sampling method, as it requires a sampling frame of all the AUC students that fit the characteristics of the population and randomly selecting those included in the sample. Therefore, by choosing this sampling method each member in the framework list will have an equal chance of being included in the sample. This method involves dividing the sampling frame into groups of 5, selecting a number from the first group and using the same number for all the other groups.

In efforts to conduct this sampling method, we faced the dilemma of acquiring the sampling framework on time due to the fact that the university registrar did not respond to the request asking for the list of names of students in the SAPE department. Therefore the main aspect of the sampling method was not met forcing a substitution to the convenient sampling method. Using this method it was required of the researchers to visit a selected number of classes on campus, held for the student eligible for the study, and ask their permission to fill in the questionnaires, the total sample for the research was seventy participants.

Describe Experiment:

First we will collect the list of names for the secretary of the SAPE department, as well as the class times, locations and dates. The researchers will then visit the classes, distributing the questionnaires amongst the participants using the “drop-off and pickup” procedure. After retrieving the questionnaires the data will then be placed on SPSS. After retrieving the final results an analysis will be conducted in order to reach a conclusion and see whether the data verifies or falsifies the hypothesis, as well as which literature review it support or defies.


*AI = Academic information

Test and variable


ANOVA for GPA and major


ANOVA for self-esteem and major


Chi-square for AI 1 and Gender


Chi-square for AI 2 and nationality


Chi-square for AI 8 and Academic standing


Correlation for GPA and Self-esteem


Correlation for GPA wanted and Self-esteem


Graph 1

This graph represents the number of males and females that selected the amount by which their personal life affected by their academic life.

Graph 2

This graph represents the number of males and females that selected the amount by which their academic life affected by their personal life.


Using the Two Sample T tests, ANOVA, chi-square tests and Correlation tests will allow a through analysis of the results and the different relationship existent between any of the variables considered. The results revealed were quite surprising in several aspects and expected in others. Looking at the main purpose of this study, it was concluded that there is no direct correlation between self-esteem and GPA. Therefore, the hypothesis has been falsified; this result was quite surprising, as it is widely suspected that an individual’s self-esteem affects not only their social life or personal life but also their academic life.

However, further analysis of our results revealed a relationship between an individual’s belief that GPA is related to self esteem (Question one in the academic information section) and gender (Question three in personal information), the findings show that overall females were more likely to perceive GPA as an important aspect in relation to self-esteem, than males do.

Also there was a relationship found between Perception of GPA (Question two in the academic information section) and nationality (Question four in personal information).This outcome was expected as within Egyptian culture and the AUC community the norms and beliefs are based on the relatedness of academic success to individual success and self worth. Therefore, it was expected to see that students of different nationalities perceive GPA less importantly than Egyptian student do.

Further more, a relationship between people’s GPA and Major was shown. Although, the test didn’t emphasis a strong relationship, still there was evidence proving the existence of a relationship. Even with further investigations these results were very surprising as the majors examined where all with the same department and the student enrolled in overlapping classes, therefore it was very hard to explain the results received. There was further evidence expressing the possibility of a relationship between an individuals academic standing and their belief of how important their academic life is. The reason for this result maybe related to an individuals lifespan and how when they are about to graduate they put less weight on their academic life and emphasize the importance on their future -non academic- life.

When looking at the number of male and female participants who stated that their personal lives affected their academic life, it was quite surprising to recognize that 50% of males have admitted that their personal life moderately affects their academic life (Question 7 in academic information section), while only 35% of women admitted the presence of an effect. The reason for the different expectations before conducting this experiment was due to the cultural emphasis that males have to be detached from their personal problems and not to allow them to interfere with their academic or professional life that is why the results surprised us. However it was expected that none of the men would admitted that their personal life highly affected their academic life, while 5.2% of women revealed it. Another unexpected revelation was that 80% of men selected either a moderate score (identified as 3 on the scale) or mildly moderate scores (identified as two on the scale) when asked about the effect of their academic life on their personal life, and only 61% of women selected those scores. These outcomes may have resulted due to severe suppression created by the environment surrounding the participants.

While conducting the research many limitations came into play. Firstly, this semester was full of unexpected events that hindered the schedules, thereby creating a higher workload on the students, as well as raising their stress levels. Secondly, the self reported GPA scores may be inaccurate as participants might not be truthful when asked to revile their current GPA, as a result affecting the reliability of the information collected. Lastly, it has been suggested by previous research that an individual’s current mood may cause him to change his answers; this is a factor that is out of the researchers hands as we cannot predict whether an individual is feeling good or bad at the moment we distribute the questionnaire upon them, this factor might specifically affect the way they answer the self-esteem aspect of the questionnaire.


After analyzing the experiment’s results, surprisingly, they came out to falsify our hypothesis. Through the literature reviewed some articles showed a positive relationship between self-esteem and GPA, while others stated that there was no direct relationship between both variables. The following articles “Racial Identity, Self-Esteem, and Academic Achievement: Too Much Interpretation, Too Little Supporting Data” by Lockett and Harrell, “Self-Esteem and Academic Achievement: A case study” by T. J. Wells, Hellen Pullman and JuriAllik (2008) “Relations of academic and general self – esteem to school achievement” and “Self Esteem and Academic Success for Urban, Migrant, and High Socioeconomic students” by Katherine Winning, stated that a positive relationship was found between GPA and self-esteem.

Whereas,Aspelmeier, Love, McGill, Elliott and Pierce in “Self-esteem, locus of control, collage adjustment, and GPA amongst first -and continuing- generation students: a moderator model of generational status”, Jennifer L. Wiles in her study “understanding the relationship between self esteem and current grade point average of college undergraduates”


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