Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences

Advisor 1

Susan Amato-Henderson

Advisor 2

Lorelle Meadows

Committee Member 1

Kelly Steelman

Committee Member 2

Caryn Heldt


The intersection of stress, persistence and success in college-aged students is progressively gaining attention in research. Analyzing how students succeed and what factors contribute to their success, failure, and ultimately the completion of their degree, is vitally important for educators and administrators in higher education to understand. Historically utilized factors such as grade point average (GPA), standardized test scores (college admissions and Advance Placement (AP) exams), and previous academic achievement (pre-requisite courses) are not the only predictors of academic performance. This study aimed to quantify contributions and inter-relationships of student perceptions, coping style, stress, mental toughness (MT), and other potential factors that correlate with academic performance. Thirty-five Physics I students provided baseline and day-of final exam self-reported assessments of such factors. Exploratory analysis, utilizing multiple regressions, suggests that self-reported stress is a reliable predictor of academic performance on a Physics I final exam and additional constructs such as MT, self-compassion, stress appraisals, coping strategies and grit contribute as well. Implications for the findings of this study can inform higher education’s approach to admissions, retention, and stress mitigation of college students.