Oregon Public Broadcasting

One of the key indicators of whether a student will go on to finish college shows up before the child even starts kindergarten. That's the conclusion of new research from Oregon State University.

Megan McClelland supervises early childhood research at OSU's Hallie Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families. Her new study tracked more than 400 young people from before kindergarten into their 20's.

"We found that parents' ratings of a child's ability to pay attention and persist on a task when they were just four years old was a stronger predictor of the odds of completing college by the time they were 25, even than academic achievement like reading and math skills," McClelland says.

The study appears in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly. It finds kids who are better at paying attention as four year-olds are 50-percent more likely to earn a degree than kids who are easily distracted.

McClelland says that's a clearer connection than strong math and reading skills at age 7.

McClelland says kids' attentiveness can be improved -- for example, with age-appropriate games, like "Red Light -- Green Light" and "Simon Says."

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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