Top Students Tell What They Need to Succeed

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No Child Left Behind prompted schools to focus their energy on helping low-performing students, but “ignored the educational needs of high achievers,” says a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The National Leadership Academies recently surveyed top students on their needs and can share its original research on this topic.

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Inspiration, Community & Mentorship – Top Students Tell What They Really Need to Thrive

Well-meaning studies such as the Fordham Institute’s High Stakes for High Achievers offer recommendations for how states and schools can better serve top students, such as including gifted or high-achieving students as a subgroup and reporting their results separately. Top students and their parents, however, offer different view on what they need.

These students often feel isolated, bored and unchallenged in their schools and communities, says Richard Rossi, founder and CEO of The National Leadership Academies who has worked more than 30 years with high-achieving students. To help better support these students, the Academies focuses on helping them build community and friendships with passionate, motivated peers while exposing them to top leaders their fields.

Each summer the Academies hosts thousands of America’s brightest high school students at its Congress of Future Medical Leaders and Congress of Future Science & Technology Leaders. These events expose students to top leaders in their fields, help them build lasting friendships, and give them motivation, guidance and mentorship they need to achieve their goals.

This year the Academies surveyed almost 3,000 students – 1,478 who are planning careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and 1,664 planning medical science careers, as well as their parents. More than half of parents, 52.5 percent, reported they are at least somewhat concerned their child is not getting the support he or she needs at school, including 22.5 percent who report they are very concerned.

Among students surveyed before attending the events:

  • 60.7 percent said they wished they had more opportunity
  • 47.2 percent reported they often struggle with feeling down, nervous or anxious
  • 19.2 percent said they don’t feel connected with other people like them

After attending the Congresses, students said they felt much more supported, including:

  • 88.9 percent were more excited about their future
  • 87 percent reported feeling good about themselves
  • 86 percent were more confident in achieving their goals
  • 84.7 percent reported a greater awareness that other people like them exist
  • 75.9 percent made new friends
  • 64 percent felt more connected to their parents

Want to learn more? Experts on high-achieving students from The National Leadership Academies are available to discuss the results and what America can do to better prepare its top students.

About: The National Leadership Academies works to inspire and equip top students for the future. Through its Congress of Future Medical Leaders and Congress of Future Science & Technology Leaders, high-achieving young people from across America gain the skills, motivation, guidance and mentorship they need to achieve their dreams.

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Lisa Rossi

Jillian Katz