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Yeager, Walton, et al., 2016, Experiment 2-Social Belonging: Reflecting on stories about common challenges to belonging in the transition to college in an online, prematriculation exercise increased enrollment and persistence among minority and first-generation college students over a year


Yeager, D. S., Walton, G. M., Brady, S. T., Akcinar, E. N., Paunesku, D., Keane, L., ... & Gomez, E. M. (2016). Teaching a lay theory before college narrows achievement gaps at scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201524360.
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A version of the social-belonging intervention (Walton & Cohen, 2011) adapted for online delivery prior to matriculation in college was delivered in online modules alongside other entrance forms in the summer before students entered a large public university. Participants were 90%+ of the entering class. In the treatment condition, stories from older students emphasized that it is normal to worry at first about whether you belong in college and this improves with time. The stories were redeveloped from Walton and Cohen (2011) to be appropriate for the prematriculation context. Students read the stories and then wrote an essay about how they anticipated their experience in college would develop along the themes emphasized. As compared to a randomized control condition, this exercise, along with a growth-mindset intervention, increased the percentage of negatively stereotyped ethnic-minority and first-generation college students who completed the first year full-time enrolled (i.e., both semesters) by 4%, from 69% to 73%, reducing the gap with nonminority, continuing-generation students by 40%. The interventions also reduced the percentage of students deemed “at-risk” for dropping out on a multidimensional measure assessing various achievement-related behaviors and attitudes. This statistically mediated the effect on college persistence.

Psychological Process:

Psychological Process 2:


What is the Person Trying to Understand?

What Desired Meaning is At Stake?

What Desired Meaning is At Stake?

What About it?

Approach to Desired Meaning

Approach to Desired Meaning


Psychological Question Addressed

Psychological Question Addressed

Psychological Question Addressed

Psychological Process 3:

Social Area:

Intervention Technique:

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Greg Walton & Timothy Wilson