How Does Narcissism Affect Students’ Academic Performance?

Narcissistic Personality By May 28, 2024 No Comments

Narcissism is an excessive admiration and an unrealistic positive view of oneself and physical appearance. Research suggests a possible increase in narcissistic personality tendencies among college-aged American students. This premise implies that students’ personality traits can significantly influence their performance and overall experience. But did you know that narcissism has both positive and negative outcomes in academic settings?

On the brighter side, narcissistic students often display a high level of confidence in their abilities. This self-assuredness can lead to a proactive approach toward their studies, including seeking resources and assistance. For example, a student might confidently ask a classmate or professor for help or even utilize online services to ‘write my research paper for me.’ This assertive behavior can sometimes translate to better academic performance because these students don’t hesitate to leverage all available resources to achieve their goals.

However, this trait can also lead to challenges, such as overestimating their capabilities or failing to collaborate effectively with peers. It’s also worth noting that egotistic behaviors influence the social dynamics in educational settings. Narcissistic students may struggle with collaboration and teamwork, which are essential components of many academic programs. Their need for dominance and recognition can create friction with peers and teachers, potentially leading to a less supportive learning environment. Thus, while narcissistic traits might provide some initial advantages, their overall impact on academic performance tends to be detrimental.

Are narcissism tendencies commonplace in our society? Recent studies have shown that 6% of the population have experienced clinical NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) at some point in their lives. But many more experience non-clinical symptoms. What about its prevalence and effects among students?

7 Ways Narcissism Affects Students’ Academic Performance

College students are more narcissistic and self-centered than ever before. Selfish behaviors are especially rife in the twenty-first century. A study conducted by a team of five psychologists found that college students scored 30% higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory evaluation in 2006 than students in 1982. Jean Twenge, leader of the study and psychology professor at San Diego State University, recounted the statements posed to the more than 16,000 students in the evaluation. “‘I think I am a special person,’ ‘I can live my life any way I want to,’ ‘I like to be the center of attention,’ and ‘If I ruled the world, it would be a better place’” said Twenge, author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before.

Thus, understanding how narcissism influences academic performance can help educators and students develop strategies to mitigate the adverse effects and harness positive aspects. Here are seven ways in which narcissism affects students’ academic performance.

High self-confidence

Narcissistic individuals have powerful armor regarding their sense of self. It’s no secret that they view themselves very positively. Accordingly, narcissistic students often exhibit high levels of self-confidence, which can be a double-edged sword. This confidence can lead them to take on challenging tasks with enthusiasm. They believe they can excel at anything they put their mind to. They ignore negative feedback to avoid damaging their positive views of themselves.

However, it can also result in overestimating their abilities, leading to poor preparation or underestimating the effort required. This misjudgment can negatively impact their performance when their abilities do not match their self-perception.

Motivation for recognition

Remember Adolf Hitler? He had an intense need for admiration and attention and developed extraordinary oratorical skills that brought him the attention of the masses. Similarly, narcissists thrive on admiration and recognition. This perception can translate to a strong motivation for high grades and accolades. Such students may go to great lengths to ensure they are recognized for their achievements, which can drive them to perform well. But there’s a catch. It can also lead to unhealthy competition and stress, as they might prioritize recognition over genuine learning.

Resistance to feedback

Feedback is crucial for academic growth. Nonetheless, narcissistic students often struggle to accept criticism. Their need to maintain a superior self-image makes it difficult to acknowledge mistakes or areas for improvement. Again, Hitler didn’t allow criticism. No one could contradict him. Worse, he couldn’t accept reports from troops on the battlefield when they reported being overpowered by the Allied forces. Nothing less than a win was acceptable. In the same vein, students with such behaviors ignore constructive feedback. This behavior hinders their academic development and prevents them from learning from their errors.

Difficulty with collaboration

The skills required for success in group work are common speaking and listening skills such as listening without interrupting, summarizing, paraphrasing, or adding to others’ ideas, and asking questions to clarify someone else’s ideas. You cannot say this about egotistical individuals. Narcissistic traits often include a lack of empathy and a tendency to dominate interactions. These students may struggle to work effectively with others in group projects or collaborative settings. 

You probably know of students with such traits. Their desire to control the outcome and receive individual recognition can lead to conflicts and an inability to function as part of a team.

Academic dishonesty

A study on graduate students studying social work who had narcissistic personality traits found that they had a more difficult time learning than their non-narcissistic peers. Surprisingly, very high predictions and expectations of college GPA correlate with narcissistic and egotistical self-views. The drive to maintain a flawless academic record can sometimes push narcissistic students toward dishonest behaviors. They may be more inclined to cheat on exams, plagiarize assignments, or engage in academic misconduct. This issue undermines their learning, poses ethical issues, and can lead to severe consequences if discovered.

Short-term focus

George Savile said, “A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else. Narcissistic students often focus on immediate rewards and recognition rather than long-term learning and development. This short-term focus can lead them to prioritize assignments and exams that yield immediate grades over more meaningful, long-term academic projects. Consequently, they may miss out on deeper learning experiences crucial for their educational growth.

Stress and anxiety

Narcissistic individuals react to failure in much more damaging ways than do non-narcissistic individuals, such as with overwhelming anxiety and anger. The constant need for admiration and fear of failure can create considerable stress and anxiety for them. The pressure to consistently perform at a high level and the fear of not meeting expectations can lead to burnout and mental health issues. This stress can further impact their academic performance. It can create a vicious cycle of pressure and underachievement.


The need to understand and address narcissism among students cannot be overemphasized. Educators and academic institutions must recognize the complexities of narcissistic traits. They should implement strategies that promote healthy self-esteem, collaboration, and long-term learning. More importantly, there’s a need for more research on this subject. Creating a culture that values constructive feedback and empathy can help all students, including those with narcissistic tendencies, achieve their full potential.


Michael Fowler is a seasoned freelance writer who covers healthcare, psychology, and law. His meticulously researched work reflects his deep understanding of these fields. His thought-provoking writing informs and inspires discussions on a wide range of societal issues.