Spring 5-10-2021

Author's School

Olin Business School

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)

Document Type

honors paper

Restricted Access



The Dean’s List is one accolade awarded by the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis to students who achieve a certain level of academic success in their courses each semester. It is bestowed upon those with a semester GPA at or above 3.6 in at least 14 completed credits graded for credit, with no incomplete registered on that semester’s transcript. Understanding the impact of these programs and their potential to incentivize students to continue to perform at or above this standard is invaluable, yet similar research has not been published for almost fifty years. This study employs the use of regression discontinuity design to analyze the effects of the Dean’s List accolade on academic performance, measured by GPA and credits undertaken, in subsequent semesters. Data were obtained for 260 undergraduate students enrolled in the Olin Business School, detailing grade point average, Dean’s List achievement, number of credits, and current standing across five semesters. Semester-on-semester data were then pooled to provide a detailed picture of the respective assignment variable against the outcome variable, indicating whether the treatment variable of Dean’s List achievement was statistically significant when regressed against the outcome variable, measuring students’ academic performance in following semesters. In response to our hypotheses, our data showed significance at the 90% level in regard to the impact of receiving the Dean’s List award in semester zero on a student’s academic performance in semester one, measured by GPA. Our regressions, however, did not show statistical significance of the impact of Dean’s List on credits undertaken in semester one or GPA in the long term, measured in semester two. These results indicate that academic awards conferred each semester can motivate students to sustain a certain level of award-qualifying academic success, measured by GPA.