Skip to content Skip to navigation

Research on the Development of Purpose in Contemporary Contexts of Higher Education

The Stanford University Center on Adolescence is conducting a study of purpose as a possible outcome of a college education. Sampling from a broad range of U. S. colleges and universities, the project will examine both the curricular and extra-curricular experiences that students have during their undergraduate years. The research will determine how those experiences relate to students’ development of purpose. A particular focus of the study will be on the development of students who have experienced various versions of a liberal arts education.

Students who participate in this study will complete questionnaires about their goals, activities, and experiences in college; and a subset of these students will participate in in-depth interviews about their purposes in life. We have defined purpose as a long-term, forward-looking intention to accomplish aims that are meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self. Research on purpose has shown that it is associated with academic and vocational success, motivation, resilience, achievement, and psychological and physical well-being throughout the lifespan.

Click here for a "School's In" podcast interview about purpose and this study.

Sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation