The college experience is a rite of passage that is an avenue to higher income and levels of employment. Students often experience difficulty making the transitions from home life to a traditional college setting without support. For some students the transition requires the acceptance of new connections and social networks with people that support their goals. Student retention has become a bigger concern for colleges in recent years and research helps support how colleges can increase these retention rates as students make these difficult life-changing choices.
Even though there is literature available on how to improve retention rates the actual percentages of retention have not changed much over the past decade (NCES, 2005). The period of adjustment to college life can be difficult for many students as they transition out of their homes and into a new way of thinking and living. Over the past decade the nature of college and the demographics of students are adjusting to new ways of living and this may require new ways of viewing retention.
Prior research indicates that a seminar in the first year helped improve student retention and increase student satisfaction (Astin et al, 2002). Such seminars help students make the transition from their old worlds to the new worlds. Retention may be in part associated with the disappearance of social networks from their homes and not finding appropriate support networks within college.
The use of student advisers can have an impact on students ability to make this important transition. The skill and strength of the advisory-advisee relationship had an impact on the overall success of first-year student experiences (Nutt, 2003). Students relied on these advisers to give them direction, information, and advice in a number of arenas. The more connected the students were to the advisers that more able they were to make appropriate choices.
Understanding how and why students do not transition into college life is important in helping students achieve their long-term goals. Much of the previous research has been on traditional universities where students physically move from one location to another. However, the transition may be more of a mental transition and those who have been prepared by their home environment are more likely to have higher levels of success.
Research conducted by Hsu & Bailey (2011) administered surveys to all Foundations of Business Courses for seven semesters at undergraduate courses of an AACSB school. The survey assessed 1.) the level of advisement from various sources within the university (i.e. advisors, instructors, friends, etc…), 2.) student difficulties (away from home, social fit, jobs, etc…) and 3.) whether or not students would return to school next semester. A total of 913 freshman under the age of 24 participated in the study.
-Students who said they would not return indicated that their advisor would not share information with them or help them set a plan.
-Students who said they would not return skipped classes more often and had other difficulties in college life.
-The students who said they would not return to college relied less on their friends and others.
-Students had a favorable view of the 4-year study plan.
-Improving relationships between faculty members and students improved retention.
Students and their ability of achieving their goals with a university education relies in part on their perceived ability to transition from one lifestyle and move into the next. The more connections and help a student has in making new connections, communities, and social networks within the school will often determine their success level. Many of the problems students face may be associated with their prior experiences, home networks, and perception of their ability to make this transition. However, the advisor is often the first person such students contact and becomes their initial association to the university. Advisors, who have the ability to give appropriate information, maintain relationships, and help students make the transition are likely to see higher levels of retention. One must wonder if chronic positive behavior by universities can help students feel more confident about this transition, encourage engagement, and further their opportunities for success.
Author: Dr. Murad Abel
Astin, A. W., Oseguera, L., Sax, L. J., & Korn, W. S. (2002). The American freshman: Thirty-five year trends. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.
Hsu, M. & Bailey, A. (2011). Retention in Business Education: Understanding Business Student Perceptions of Academic Advising and College Life. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2 (21).
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), (2010). Statistical Analysis Report 2005-
156. Retrieved March 9th, 2013, from Web site: http://nces.ed.gov/das/epubs/2005156/
Nutt, C. L. (2003). Academic advising and student retention and persistence
. NACADA. Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources. Advising Issues & Resources.