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College Student Retention – Success Secrets for College Students, Student Advisers & Deans
by Guest Blogger, Anne Baron

Why does a student leave college before he/she completes a degree?  The simple question stirred the interest of not only scholars, institution, higher education authority but also spouses and students.  According to the survey of the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES), the cumulative withdrawal of students has reached 24 percent from 2004 to 2014. Only 69 percent of students who enroll in colleges obtain degrees while the rest don’t pursue their studies.

The dilemma is when a student withdraws from the college before completing his degree, they cannot earn back the paid tuition fee that never returns even through employment. Plus, he/she diminishes a lifetime earning as compared to the graduate students. In addition, it is not only the loss of tuition fee for the institution but a  loss of a trained individual and human capital who could have contributed to any workforce and perform his civic duties.

With this shrinking pool of competent students, student retention has become fundamental to accomplish institutional goals for success and growth. The high attrition rate does not only reflect fiscal problems for students but also a symbolic failure of education policies and institution student retention criteria.

With that said, institutions, advisors, and students need to come up with practical solutions to overhaul this aggravating issue. Here, we list some factors affecting student retention and strategies to boost it:

Factors that Affect Student Retention

Factors that affect students’ retention decisions may vary from college to college or institution to institution. It further depends upon age, gender environment, and ethnicity. Some of them are incorporated here.

Background Variables

For students, background variables are of paramount importance and may contribute to their academic decisions. This includes parental support, educational goals, low-class ranks and college curriculum.

Academic Factors

Academic factors also play an inevitable role when it comes to retaining students. Once the student enters college, there are plenty of things that may demotivate him/her about pursuing studies. These factors include interaction with faculty, poor student counseling, lack of campuses resources (college union, library, computers, etc), academic integration and classroom environment.

Social Factors

There is no denying that the campus culture can make a huge difference in creating a prosperous environment for the students. Social involvement, in this regard, is critically important for students to learn collaboratively. If there’s no positive intercultural environment, students may not feel comfortable and secure.

Environmental Factors

These factors include lack of financial resources, family responsibilities and working more than fifteen hours per week.

Psychological Process and Attitude

This is another important aspect that is often overlooked when people accumulate factors of poor student retention. The lack of self-validation, confidence, and study stress can discourage students to continue studies.

How to Retain College Students

The given strategies aim to address the aforementioned issues and can be success secrets for institutions, students and advisors.

Provide Advisors


College academic advising


Evidence presented in the Mansfield University of Pennsylvania suggested that students who get a chance to connect with their advisors in the early stage of their semester become better learners.  However, it is important that advisors meet each student individually and make sure to provide maximum guidance. This will not only help students develop a positive perspective toward the institution but also boost their confidence.

Make Attendance Mandatory

There has to be a proper structure of everything from class schedule to attend. If new students lag behind in even a one-week syllabus, it is enough to lose track and can demotivate them. It heightens the risk of students dropping out or giving up their studies. This is what makes implementing class attendance mandatory from the first day extremely important for retaining potential students. Deans, advisors, retention team and professors may report to parents if a student misses more than three classes consecutively.

Positive Academic Environment


positive academic environment


As mentioned earlier, the lack of positive integration is one of the reasons students quit their studies. That is why it is important for campuses to endeavor to create an atmosphere where a student can develop healthy relationships. Creating small communities in the first year will allow students to mingle with each other, demonstrate a positive attitude and get involved in campus activities.

Learning Communities

Tied to the last paragraph, learning communities can be an effective way to allow students to build positive relationships and increase engagement among not only students but also faculty. According to the University of Texas, learning communities also play a role in improving academic achievements.

Social and Academic Support

Hanover Research Consultants highlighted the significance of taking care of learners from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Colleges need to pay special attention to the emotional barriers to low-income learners’ face. The Georgia State Student Success Program also raised the point that these students require extra support to develop academic skills, financial literacy to regain confidence and footing.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the given strategies can be helpful for colleges and institutions to retain students positively.



Author Bio:

Anne Baron is a highly experienced educator, writer, and copywriter specializing in academic research.  She has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with almost 25 years of experience in teaching and academic writing.  She spent a dozen years managing a large college peer-tutoring program and another dozen years in the classroom teaching college students.  She has since retired from teaching and devotes her time and efforts to freelance writing for institutions, businesses, and colleges like Patrick Henry College.


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