Correlates of Academic Success in College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: Do the Traditional Measures Apply?

Friday, May 13, 2016: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
S. W. Eldred1, S. M. Ryan2, L. K. Baker1 and J. A. Rankin1, (1)Psychology, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, (2)The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

Colleges use both the American College Testing college readiness assessment (ACT) and high school GPA as measures of students’ previous educational achievements in order to help determine potential for success in college (ACT, 1997).  Studies have found positive linear relationships between both ACT scores and college GPA, as well as previous GPA and college GPA, indicating that these are valid predictors of college success in neurotypical populations (Coyle, 2015; ACT, 2002). While cognitive ability is not traditionally used to predict success in college students, it is strongly correlated with ACT scores and may serve as an additional factor to help predict success in college (Coyle, 2015). The relationship between these factors and academic success in college have not been studied in college students with ASD. 


The current study examines the relationship between students’ GPA at the end of their first semester, and factors typically associated with success in college, (i.e., ACT scores, previous GPA, FSIQ). 


This study included 10 students enrolled in an ASD specific support program for degree-seeking undergraduate students with ASD at a major public university. Enrolled students meet 3 times per week with a mentor, participate in study hall, and attend group meetings. Three cohorts of students entering the University in 2012, 2013, and 2014 were included in the current analysis. Of these students, 7 entered as freshmen and 3 entered as transfer students.  As part of their applications, each student provided past cognitive assessments, their high school GPA, and their ACT scores. 


Correlations between ACT scores, previous GPA, FSIQ, and cumulative spring GPA were examined. These correlations revealed that, similar to studies with typically developing students, there was a strong positive correlation between ACT scores and IQ scores, (r = .77, p = .01).  However, unlike neurotypical students, neither ACT scores nor IQ scores were significantly related to first-year GPA, (r = .49, p = .15; r = -.05, p = .85).  Additionally, neither ACT scores, nor IQ scores were significantly related to previous GPA, (r = .42, p = .20; r = .23, p = .40). There was a significant positive correlation between high school GPA and first-year GPA (r = .54, p = .04).  It should be noted that the limited sample size result in limited power to detect small to moderate effects.  Six to seven additional students will be added from the most recent cohort prior to the IMFAR meeting in May.


Overall, these results indicate that factors that are used as predictors of college success for typically developing students might not be as significant in students with ASD.  For the current sample of college students with ASD, ACT and IQ scores did not significantly correlate with first-year GPA, suggesting a weaker association between these factors compared to typically developing students.  The strongest relationship was found between previous GPA and first-year