Investigating Factors Affecting International Students’ Academic Performance in Higher Education in the United States


  • Hadi Rajabbeigi Graduated
  • June Schmieder-Ramirez
  • James Dellaneve
  • Fereshteh Amin



academic performance, character strengths, international students, learning strategies, perseverance, positive psychology, self-regulation


Although international students represent around 5% of the higher education population in the United States, research on psychological factors that result in this segment’s academic success remains limited. This study sought to help fill this knowledge gap by exploring success factors that affect international students’ academic progress. Specifically, we examined psychological characteristics and learning strategies influencing these students’ achievement. Quantitative data were collected from 85 international students in the United States. Using a survey grounded in positive psychology and learning theories, we studied correlations between their character strengths, learning strategies, and academic performance. A linear regression model was used to determine the predictability of these students’ academic performance. Character strength variables correlated with academic performance and learning strategies. In addition, learning strategies correlated positively with academic performance. Multiple regression analysis revealed that both character strengths and learning strategies predicted academic performance whereas demographics did not.


Download data is not yet available.


Alt, D. (2015). Assessing the contribution of a constructivist learning environment to academic self-efficacy in higher education. Learning Environments Research, 18(1), 47–67.

American Psychological Association. (2020). Social intelligence. In APA Dictionary of Psychology.

Asikainen, H., Hailikari, T., & Mattsson, M. (2018). The interplay between academic emotions, psychological flexibility and self-regulation as predictors of academic achievement. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42(4), 439–453.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. W. H. Freeman and Company.

Bembenutty, H. (2016). Motivation and self-regulated learning among preservice and in-service teachers enrolled in educational psychology courses. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2(4), 231–244.

Bernardo, A., Esteban, M., Cervero, A., Cerezo, R., & Herrero, F. J. (2019). The influence of self-regulation behaviors on university students’ intentions of persistence. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.

Brown, G. T. L., Peterson, E. R., & Yao, E. S. (2016). Student conceptions of feedback: Impact on self-regulation, self-efficacy, and academic achievement. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(4), 606–629.

Bruso, J. L., & Stefaniak, J. E. (2016). The use of self-regulated learning measure questionnaires as a predictor of academic success. TechTrends, 60(6), 577–584.

Ciarrochi, J., Atkins, P. W. B., Hayes, L. L., Sahdra, B. K., & Parker, P. (2016). Contextual positive psychology: Policy recommendations for implementing positive psychology into schools. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1561.

Cohn, M. A., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2012). Positive emotions. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive psychology (2nd ed., pp. 13–24). Oxford University Press.

Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (5th ed.). SAGE Publications.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. Harper Perennial.

Dismore, H., Turner, R., & Huang, R. (2018). Let me edutain you! Practices of student engagement employed by new lecturers. Higher Education Research & Development, 38(2), 235–249.

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner.

Field, A. (2009). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS. SAGE Publications.

Fonteyne, L., Duyck, W., & de Fruyt, F. (2017). Program-specific prediction of academic achievement on the basis of cognitive and non-cognitive factors. Learning and Individual Differences, 56, 34–48.

Gulliford, L., Morgan, B., Hemming, E., & Abbott, J. (2019). Gratitude, self-monitoring and social intelligence: A prosocial relationship? Current Psychology, 38(4), 1021–1032.

He, Y., & Hutson, B. (2018). Exploring and leveraging Chinese international students’ strengths for success. Journal of International Students, 8(1), 87–108.

Hidi, S. E., & Renninger, K. A. (2019). Interest development and its relation to curiosity: Needed neuroscientific research. Educational Psychology Review, 31(4), 833–852.

Hofer, B. K., Yu, S. L., & Pintrich, P. R. (1998). Teaching college students to be self-regulated learners. In B. J. Zimmerman & D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulated learning: From teaching to self-reflective practice (pp. 57–85). Guilford Publications.

In, H. (2016). Acculturation and hope as predictors of career decision self-efficacy among Korean international undergraduate students. Journal of Career Development, 43(6), 526–540.

Institute of International Education. (2019, November 18). Number of international students in the United States hits all-time high.

Institute of International Education. (2021). Enrollment trends.

Isik, U., Wilschut, J., Croiset, G., & Kusurkar, R. A. (2018). The role of study strategy in motivation and academic performance of ethnic minority and majority students: A structural equation model. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 23(5), 921–935.

Jackson, M., Ray, S., & Bybell, D. (2013). International students in the U.S.: Social and psychological adjustment. Journal of International Students, 3(1), 17–28.

Kickert, R., Meeuwisse, M., Stegers-Jager, K. M., Koppenol-Gonzalez, G. V., Arends, L. R., & Prinzie, P. (2019). Assessment policies and academic performance within a single course: The role of motivation and self-regulation. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(8), 1177–1190.

Lee, J., & Durksen, T. L. (2018). Dimensions of academic interest among undergraduate students: Passion, confidence, aspiration and self-expression. Educational Psychology, 38(2), 120–138.

Liao, H.-A., Ferdenzi, A. C., & Edlin, M. (2012). Motivation, self-regulated learning efficacy, and academic achievement among international and domestic students at an urban community college: A comparison. Community College Enterprise, 18(2), 9–38.

Lowinger, R., He, Z., Lin, M., & Chang, M. (2014). The impact of academic self-efficacy, acculturation difficulties, and language abilities on procrastination behavior in Chinese international students. College Student Journal, 48(1), 141–152.

Lucieer, S. M., Jonker, L., Visscher, C., Rikers, R. M. J. P., & Themmen, A. P. N. (2016). Self-regulated learning and academic performance in medical education. Medical Teacher, 38(6), 585–593.

Mamiseishvili, K. (2012). International student persistence in U.S. postsecondary institutions. Higher Education, 64(1), 1–17.

Mason, H. D. (2018). Grit and academic performance among first-year university students: A brief report. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 28(1), 66–68.

McCarthy, G. (2015). Motivating and enabling adult learners to develop research skills. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 55(2), 309–330.

Muenks, K., Wigfield, A., Yang, J. S., & O’Neal, C. R. (2017). How true is grit? Assessing its relations to high school and college students’ personality characteristics, self-regulation, engagement, and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(5), 599–620.

Pajares, F. (2008). Motivational role of self-efficacy beliefs in self-regulated learning. In D. H. Schunk & B. J. Zimmerman (Eds.), Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. (pp. 111–139). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford University Press.

Pintrich, P. R., Smith, D. A. F., Garcia, T., & McKeachie, W. J. (1991). A manual for the use of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ).

Poyrazli, S., & Isaiah, J. (2018). International students’ journeys from academic probation to academic success. International Perspectives in Psychology: Research, Practice, Consultation, 7(2), 62–75.

Rowe, A. D., Fitness, J., & Wood, L. N. (2015). University student and lecturer perceptions of positive emotions in learning. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28(1), 1–20.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness. Guilford Publications.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: An educational perspective (6th ed.). Pearson.

Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (1998). Self-regulated learning: From teaching to self-reflective practice. Guilford Publications.

Seligman, M. (2011). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Shi, H. (2018). English language learners’ strategy use and self-efficacy beliefs in English language learning. Journal of International Students, 8(2), 724–741.

Slantcheva-Durst, S., & Knaggs, C. (2019). Community college international students and their campus involvement. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 43(2), 81–93.

Sommet, N., & Elliot, A. J. (2017). Achievement goals, reasons for goal pursuit, and achievement goal complexes as predictors of beneficial outcomes: Is the influence of goals reducible to reasons? Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(8), 1141–1162.

Thibodeaux, J., Deutsch, A., Kitsantas, A., & Winsler, A. (2016). First-year college students’ time use: Relations with self-regulation and GPA. Journal of Advanced Academics, 28(1), 5–27.

VIA Institute on Character. (2017). VIA-120.

Wang, Y., Li, T., Noltemeyer, A., Wang, A., Zhang, J., & Shaw, K. (2018). Cross-cultural adaptation of international college students in the United States. Journal of International Students, 8(2), 821–842.

Warr, P., & Downing, J. (2000). Learning strategies, learning anxiety and knowledge acquisition. British Journal of Psychology, 91(3), 311–333.

Wilson, K., & Narayan, A. (2016). Relationships among individual task self-efficacy, self-regulated learning strategy use and academic performance in a computer-supported collaborative learning environment. Educational Psychology, 36(2), 236–253.

Wolters, C. A., & Hussain, M. (2015). Investigating grit and its relations with college students’ self-regulated learning and academic achievement. Metacognition and Learning, 10(3), 293–311.

Zautra, E. K., Zautra, A. J., Gallardo, C. E., & Velasco, L. (2015). Can we learn to treat one another better? A test of a social intelligence curriculum. PLoS ONE, 10(6), e0128638.

Zimmerman, B. J., Bandura, A., & Martinez-Pons, M. (1992). Self-motivation for academic attainment: The role of self-efficacy beliefs and personal goal setting. American Educational Research Journal, 29(3), 663–676.

Zull, J. E. (2002). The art of changing the brain: Enriching teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Stylus Pub.

Zull, J. E. (2006). Key aspects of how the brain learns. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2006(110), 3–9.



How to Cite

Rajabbeigi, H., Schmieder-Ramirez, J., Dellaneve, J., & Amin, F. (2023). Investigating Factors Affecting International Students’ Academic Performance in Higher Education in the United States. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 15(4), 5–16.



Empirical Article