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Initial Issues

Initial Issues

Want to improve your GPA? You may want to change your name.

Elizabeth Hoyt

December 11, 2012

All students want A’s, but what if your initials are actually what’s holding you back? Scientific researchers may have discovered a link between your success in school and the initials in your name.

According to a study published by Psychological Science, students with names associated with lower grades, such as “C” or “D”, achieved lower grade point averages (GPAs) than those with names beginning with letters associated with higher scores, such as “A” and “B”.

Psychologists Nelson and Simmons, who performed the studies, hypothesized that, though unconscious, people whose names are associated with lower-achieving grades may find these letter grades less offensive and, as a result, unintentionally avoid them less than those with other initials.

Interestingly enough to that point, this is especially true for those students whose names begin with “C” or “D” that like their initials. The students who favored their names had even lower scores than those with names beginning with “C” or"D" that disliked theirs.

Though it may be tempting to write off as psycho-babble, the numbers and findings don’t lie.

The psychologists looked at MBA applicants over a span of 15 years. They found their hypothesis to be true to a small, but significant, effect over a span of more than 14,000 applicants to a large U.S. university.

Furthermore, since the lower GPAs lead to lower achieving graduate and law schools, the students with the lower-associated initials also tended to attend lower ranked schools post-secondary schools as well.

The unconscious associations are so affected by all factors within our lives that, clearly, something as simple as our initials may have a positive or negative impact on our day-to-day life happenings from the insignificant to significant occurrences, like our performance within our education.

Now, please understand that we’re not saying that you need to change your name, David. Or that you’re not fully capable of a 4.0 GPA, Caroline. We know you’re brilliant and you’d never let your name sabotage your success (or anything else for that matter).

We’re just saying it’s something that it’s something interesting to consider – particularly when naming your children.



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