Student Success News

The news hub for higher ed professionals who care deeply about student success. Student Success delivers actionable news, ideas, advice and inspiration for advancing the academic life of all students. Topics include academics, the college experience, health and wellness, and life after college-including Student Voice survey coverage.

For many, the definition of success can be a moving target. It’s a feeling of achievement that comes from the pursuit of goals and ambitions, but it can also be a feeling of achievement attained through accumulating wealth, prestige, and power.

A lot of famous success stories begin with failure: Henry Ford went bankrupt before founding the Ford Motor Company; Thomas Edison tested thousands of materials and discarded countless prototypes before creating the carbon filament light bulb; and J.K. Rowling received twelve rejections before having her first Harry Potter book published. But Dashun Wang didn’t think these examples told the whole story. He wanted to know what separated the Edisons of the world from those who failed to make it past their litany of setbacks.

So he and his colleagues began thinking about success at its most fundamental level. They figured that success is either the result of improving steadily over time or the product of random chance, and they set out to test both theories. If luck was the only factor, the team reasoned, then every attempt would be equally likely to succeed or fail, and it wouldn’t matter whether you threw the dice on your hundredth try versus your first.