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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 means doing their personal best 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.


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. Twenty two percent of the kids we surveyed reported that they aren’t very eager to do well in school. Help young people understand how important school is so they study hard, pay attention, and do their homework.


What drives the young people you know to do their best? Avoid using “carrots” or “sticks” to motivate them. Instad, have conversations with them to uncover their own, internal reasons for wanting to be successful.

And whatever their reasons, remind them that when they try their best they can always feel good about the results, no matter what the grade.


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. For other questions to ask kids click here.

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?

You Can Make a Difference for Kids!

Adapted from Instant Assets: 52 Short and Simple E-Mails for Sharing the Asset Message. Copyright © 2007 by Search Institute®, 877-240-7251; http://www.search-institute.org. This message may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial uses only (with this copyright line). All rights reserved.

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