If the findings of a new study are to believed, perhaps instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars to improve SAT scores and admittance essays, parents would be wise to invest in modeling and grooming classes for their kids.

An intriguing new study finds that high schoolers who are physically attractive are more likely than others to complete college; Insider Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik has these details:

A national study being released today in book form found that those who are attractive in high school are more likely than those with just average or below average looks to go on to earn a four-year college degree. The results are statistically significant, and hold for males and females, and across ethnic and racial groups. The book is Physical Attractiveness and the Accumulation of Social and Human Capital in Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Assets and Distractions (Wiley), by Rachel A. Gordon, professor of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago; Robert Crosnoe, the Elsie and Stanley E. (Skinny) Adams Sr. Centennial Professor in Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin; and Xue Wang, who completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Pre-publication publicity about the book has focused on its findings that, in comparing similarly bright students, attractive high school students earn higher grades than do other students. But the book also covers college completion — and the results there cannot be attributed only to the high school grades, the researchers say.

The study involved tracking 8,918 students — from randomly selected high schools in a national longitudinal data set — from high school through the post-college years. The group was a representative sample and various socioeconomic factors were used to control the results. For example, controls included parent’s educational background (a key predictor of academic success) and level of difficulty of high school courses taken (so that students were compared to their academic peers).

Researchers rated the students as high schoolers on physical appearance using a five-point scale. Gordon explained in an interview that guidelines specified that characteristics generally found by surveys to correlate with societal expectations about attractiveness (such as a symmetrical face) were stressed so that the survey wouldn’t be based on the particular views of the researchers on what constitutes physical attractiveness.

About 15 percent of the students were rated as “very attractive,” 35 percent as “attractive,” 44 percent as “average” and 6 percent as “unattractive” or “very unattractive.” The gains in college completion rates were the same for those deemed somewhat and very attractive — so what mattered was having above average attractiveness, not being at the very top of the scale, Gordon said.