Tale of Two Students


Academic Success

What if we told you that a simple choice today could make a direct impact on your income in 20 years?

We’re not talking about attending a premier university, reading your way through the Encyclopedia Britannica or enrolling in a two-hours-per-day self-improvement course.

No. We’re talking a step as simple as spending a little more time on one simple area of your life. An area that has unimaginably huge impact on college and career. An area with which you’re already quite familiar, but could always stand to improve:

Your vocabulary.

Seem too simple? It isn’t.

Take a moment and imagine, if you will, two students who start college together: Natalia and Jenna. They have similar socioeconomic backgrounds and GPAs, and they took the same classes in high school. Their home lives were similar and they spend roughly the same amount of time on their college homework now.

Yet there’s one big difference between them: Natalia completes a vocabulary program before starting college, while Jenna decides to pass on vocabulary training.

In addition to learning new words in her program, Natalia develops a keen eye and ear for vocabulary words. She also identifies good words to use in her written tests, papers and presentations. She finds that her reading comprehension improves every day and compounds over time.

Jenna finds writing cumbersome. She struggles to find precise words to convey her thoughts and constantly has to reread passages to make sense of her textbooks. She has a hard time comprehending and remembering what she’s read.

With a strong lexicon on her side, Natalia soon pulls ahead. She’s on the dean’s list and enjoys ever-more-complex subject matter. Her vocab-challenged peer, on the other hand, struggles with science and English, and other courses heavy on reading and writing – not to mention speaking.

When they graduate, Natalia receives multiple job offers. She hits the ground running in her career, and within two decades is at the very top of the income bracket in her field.

Jenna? Not so much.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Cool made-up story, but you’re going to have to do better than that. I know that a few words can’t possibly make the difference between a middling income and a top-level salary.

Yet … they can.

In fact, this story is founded on two landmark studies:

The first compiles research from multiple universities, concluding that college freshman (like our hypothetical Natalia) who enrolled in a vocabulary course (e.g. Vocabulary Zone) went on to earn better grades and outperform students in a control group (students like Jenna) during their sophomore, junior and senior years. As with Natalia and Jenna, the students who took the vocabulary course were in other respects comparable to those who did not. In other words, the “lucky” students – the ones randomly enrolled in a vocabulary program – were given a huge edge in college … and later in their careers, as we’re about to see.

The second study tracked the careers of college graduates over 20 years. Researchers gave new graduates a vocabulary test, then followed their careers for two decades. In every case, without a single exception, they found a direct correlation between vocabulary scores and future income. The better the vocabulary, the higher their income. Plain and simple.

Without contest, students like Natalia are better prepared for college and life, while students like Jenna languish in the background for want of better reading, writing and speaking skills.

Unfortunately, not all students are aware of the importance of good vocabularies in school and career, so they miss out. It’s a shame, and hopefully one day this message will be heard round the world.

For today, at least, you can thank your lucky stars you do understand the importance of vocabulary, and you can take steps to start improving yours immediately.

Remember: It’s up to Present You to make sure that Future You has a job and life you’d be proud of, so don’t wait.

Written by Greg Ragland, President, CEO of CommEdge LLC producers of Vocabulary Zone and the corresponding Vocabulary Certifications: College Preparedness, Ph.D. Vocabulary and Executive Level Vocabulary

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