From college prep programs to high school curricula to tests such as the ACT and SAT, there are many ways in which high school students are preparing for college. Despite this college preparation, the college drop out rate after the first year is staggering. According to 2013 data collected by ACT, four in five students that drop out of college do so before sophomore year. Retention rates for specific institutions can be found through College Navigator.
So what contributes to retention during the first year?
Predictors of Success
The main predictor of retention is a smooth transition during freshman year. Three key areas are important to a smooth transition:
Social support – Generally, students who make friends their first year and feel a sense of belongingness tend to do better in other areas such as academics. Additionally, having friends eases college stress. Faculty and student connections can provide support and guidance during times of stress that can ultimately have a positive long-term impact.
Financial stability – The financial aspect of college can add stress to an already stressful transition into college. Students worried about money, having difficulty balancing a demanding part-time job and school, or unable to budget wisely can experience increased levels of stress that can interfere with their academic achievement and ability to form substantial connections to others.
Academic achievement – The better students do during the first year, the more likely they are to return for the second year. Academic success bolsters students’ confidence in their ability to succeed in all four years of college and contributes to their commitment to graduating.
Increasing Chances of Success
College isn't a smooth transition for everyone. Knowing what resources are available in college are important for first year success.
Colleges provide many organized activities intended to bring students together and foster connections and social support. From sports to clubs to fraternities and sororities, there are many opportunities for students to meet others. Outings such as exploring the city or attending a performance are fun ways to alleviate a lot of stress while also promoting new friendships.
Faculty members can be an important connection for students in college. They can provide students with guidance on academic choices, can boost confidence in areas of academic strength, and can help address concerns or setbacks students may have or be experiencing.
Additionally, resources are available to help students with budgeting and building stress and time management skills. Academic advisors, college counselors, and financial aid offices are great resources for help. It's important for students to choose a college that has the right resources to help them through their first year.
The first year of college is a time for students to begin learning best habits of coping with stress, budgeting, time management, and reaching out to others for help when needed. Having the right resources helps with this transition.