1 Introduction to College Retention: A Student Perspective

Colin Jerome and Jordyn Hanos

The first year of college for many students is undeniably one of the most hectic years any college student will face. The first year consists of getting lost on campus, getting a schedule that isn’t the best, and trying to fit into a world that you have been thrown into. This may cause students to feel left out, or helpless in their situation, but it could also help them thrive and succeed in college. Many students will take this first year and either take it as a positive outcome or a negative outcome, resulting in the commonly known problem; retention. Retention is basically just the importance of universities trying to improve the graduation rates as well as the first-year dropout rates. So how can you improve retention, and how can students live up to their fullest potential?

Retention seems to affect students who are disadvantaged in a way, or who do not have the advantages other students have. According to the article “A Sense of Belonging” by Patrick O’Keffee, students who are more likely to fall under the flaws of student retention are students that are “ethnic minorities, academically disadvantaged, students with disabilities of low socioeconomic status, (and) probationary students” (O’Keffee). This obviously does not mean all students who face disadvantages like these will drop out or will not graduate, but they are more likely to due to the hardships they might get out of a first-year college experience. The article also states that students with parents who did not complete 4 years of college, or students who are the first-generation college students are also at greater risk of non-completion (O’Keffee). This is because students whose parents did complete 4 years of college or higher have a greater push and higher expectations. Again, this does not mean students who have had parents graduate from a four-year school will graduate, but they just have better odds due to their situations. In the end, everyone has the complete ability and potential to thrive in college and these statistics should not make anyone feel as if they cannot accomplish something that someone else can.

One of the most important factors to controlling the student retention rate is their feeling of “ownership” of their education. All throughout high school, students were constantly bombarded with getting lectures from the teachers, taking notes, and then taking a test or quiz off whatever was on the notes, which is whatever the teacher told them. As drawn out as that seems, it is completely true and for most students this is not a system that will work any further in college. When coming into a university, it is important to remember that it is not going to be much like high school, and a lot of the work and assignments need to be kept up by the student and the syllabus, which retains all that semester’s workload. This can be a good thing for students because it’s their chance to start off on a good note and start to take control of their education. But, some students are not able to take full ownership and they end up falling behind or dropping out altogether. A blog by Nureva touches on this well, by expressing the fact that “education, the real trajectory of learning, can be seen in the transition from teacher-led instruction to lifelong, self-directed learning. It’s the trajectory of ownership – from performing upon command to performing for the love of the performance” (Nureva). Students need to be able to take command of their responsibilities through the desire to become a better student and learn more. Once students learn to love learning, they will be able to become better students; and it will then be prevalent when they become proficient in their field.

(CCBY US Dept of Ed)

With the price of college skyrocketing in recent years, it is important to have a financial plan paved out to make sure you graduate without thousands of dollars of debt. According to this article by the U.S Department of Education, “Students who take out college loans but don’t graduate are three times more likely to default than borrowers who complete”. This is basically saying that if you take out a loan for college but don’t finish, you will not be able to pay it back. Once this happens the place you took the loan from can take legal action against you to be reprimanded. A deep hole is dug when going down this path considering you are now out more money and you don’t have a degree to show for it. The importance of retention is shown through this because if everyone were to follow this road, no one would be making any progressive steps in their life. Schools have financial aid set up to help students in financial need, but this does not help everyone. Some people need more than financial aid than others, so they end up dropping out to get a job because they can’t pay for college. This creates a cycle of people not being able to afford college; which is why we either need to create programs that help people pay for college easier or work towards making college cheaper.


Along with the ideas from becoming active in the residential aspect, it is also important to be involved with the community. All colleges will have outside resources and activities that can be fulfilled by students. For example, Plymouth offers students cheap ski passes to the mountain of choice. This gives students the opportunity to maybe travel outside their comfort zone and meet new people. It is important to be involved also because it helps with balancing hectic schedules and making time for outside activities can improve the student’s appreciation for their school. For example, a study on student retention reveals that “studies that focus on the role of collegiate recreation on student retention have found a relationship in the form of integration of the social atmosphere, providing a sense of community, and a sense of feeling good about themselves”. It is important to have many activities and outside sources of recreation to have the student feel more at home. This feeling of home will make students feel more comfortable, so they will most likely return to the university that they feel welcome to. Lastly, activities that aren’t academic based and let the students have some fun are beneficial because it lets them blow off stress that is accumulated. Being able to blow off some steam is so important to becoming a successful student and this will overall lead the student down a path of graduating.Another important aspect in student retention is how the student is involved with the residential life. It is extremely important to start getting used to the academic world by joining clubs, study groups, or even sports teams. This is a very demanding factor because becoming comfortable with your residential life and academic life is now in the same group, considering students will be living where they are learning. Students who are more academically involved with the school are more likely to succeed and will follow up with a second semester. In an article by The OrgSync Blog, “the more involved students are in an institution, the more invested they will be. The higher the student involvement level the higher their grades are and the more likely they are to re-enroll for the next semester”. The survey that was done proves the fact that with more involvement at the school, students are more successful and have a higher chance of returning. Also, playing sports can help positively and make the student more likely to come back to that college. Cabrini University posted an article that gives real opinions on how it has affected them. “Athletics helps to teach students life skills. Skills that they will one day need in the workforce such as leadership, teamwork, perseverance and hard work. These are life lessons that they will not only need professionally, but socially as well”. With skills taught like these, students are being set up for success.

On every college campus, resources are available to students that can make their life a lot easier. Resources like the library, or health services, and the registrar can help students feel more welcomed and it is a convenient way for students to get help if they need it. Other services colleges will offer are tutoring and technology help, which is useful to students who are struggling academically, or if something goes wrong with electronics, they will be there to help! Tutoring and one-on-one sessions with an advisor or professor is a definite way to make sure that students can reach their full potential. An article by Nacada touches on this importance when it states that “academic advisors provide students with the needed connection to the various campus services and supply the essential academic connection between these services and the students. In addition, academic advisors offer students the personal connection to the institution that the research indicates is vital to student retention and student success.” If students know they have someone to go to when they are struggling through school work, they will feel very comfortable at this school. Also, this helps develop strong relationship for the student between both other students and their professors and advisors. This gives a sense of community among the campus which is also attractive to students thinking of going to the college.

Student retention also relies heavily on if the students can create and sustain healthy habits on campus. If students are developing bad habits and doing nothing to be healthy or productive with their time on campus, there is a great chance they will not be returning the following year. According to article writer Julianne Basinger, Universities “have built student life centers in addition to their traditional student union buildings, as a way to foster healthy habits and help engage students in a vibrant campus life”. With new buildings, such as life centers or anywhere that can be used as recreational time, students can develop a healthy lifestyle by being active and making friends. Living a healthy lifestyle helps make people more productive so it is only right to supply those services that will lead to students becoming more active and healthy. Michelle Olsen Taylor, VP of student affairs at Utah Valley University, expressed her satisfaction with this when she said, “We immediately saw more students staying on campus, rather than just coming to class and going home, and that was the purpose”. Making sure students find the campus a fun and enjoyable environment is very important in the terms of retention. Nobody wants to attend a school where they have absolutely no fun and nothing to enjoy outside of school work. Additionally, students need to feel like they still can be active and go outside without being held back in any way. Students need to feel the freedom they are receiving, so being active and having more opportunities to do so can enhance their experience.

Student success and retention all boils down to the final factor; self-discipline. College is a whole new world where students start to realize the benefits of essentially living on their own. It is easy to get wrapped up in things like partying and skipping class, but it is all up to the student and time-management. Students who are more likely to fall behind due to pa

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CC by NC-ND License picture by Cambridge University Engineering https://www.flickr.com/photos/cambridgeuniversity-engineering/

rtying and skipping class might not find themselves as successful as the students who manage their time properly. This could lead to flunking out of the university, which will have meant all their money was spent on partying. It is easy to get wrapped up in that aspect but it is also just as easy to manage your time and make time for everything. Also, having a good sleep schedule is very important in the category of self-discipline. An article by Ralph Heibutzki on the importance of time management goes into depth when it states, “Sleep cheats the body, which reduces your brain’s ability to process information and fully absorb its meaning. The more that you interfere with this process, the less effective your classroom performance becomes, according to the newspaper — particularly if you spend all night studying or socializing”. Without being able to discipline yourself to set aside the right amount of sleep, you will most likely fall behind in school. Falling behind while being undisciplined will lead to the beginning of failing classes or not doing as well in them. This can overall lead to either dropping out or falling being and having to attend college longer than you intended.

At the end of the day, student success and retention can be easily reachable and can be executed properly with the help of campus resources, community and residential involvement. Your university does not want you to fail, your teachers do not want you to fail, and most importantly, YOU do not want to see yourself fail. There are plenty of ways to keep yourself motivated and hard-working throughout your first semester, but it just takes healthy habits and self-discipline to make it all work out in the end. The most important thing to remember is that college is your first step into the real world. It is your stepping stone to maturity and your first glimpse at adulthood. It is what you make of it and what you take out of it that will be the most important aspect in the end. Don’t let the obvious college problems like time management and self-discipline get in the way of your future.

Works Cited

O’KEEFFE, PATRICK. “A Sense Of Belonging: Improving Student Retention.” College Student Journal 47.4 (2013): 605-613. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.

Zimmerman, Steven. “What Does It Mean to Take Student Ownership of Education?” Innovative Solutions for Collaboration. N.p., 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Education, Dept Of. “College Affordability and Completion: Ensuring a Pathway to Opportunity.” College Affordability and Completion: Ensuring a Pathway to Opportunity | U.S. Department of Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Http://blog.orgsync.com/author/orgsync. “Student Involvement Means Success All Around.” OrgSync Blog. N.p., 03 Apr. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Krupka, Elizabeth. “Athletic Participation Affects Retention Rates at Colleges.” Loquitur. N.p., 16 Oct. 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Kampf, Stephen, and Eric J. Teske. “Collegiate Recreation Participation and Retention.” Recreational Sports Journal 37.2 (2013): 85-96. Web.

Nutt, Charlie L. “Advising and Retention.” Advising and Retention. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Basinger, Juliane. “How to Create-and Maintain-Healthy Student Life.” How to Create-and Maintain-Healthy Student Life. N.p., 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Heibutzki, Ralph. “How Lack of Time Management Affects College Students.” Education – Seattle PI. Hearst Seattle Media, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.


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Introduction to College Retention: A Student Perspective by Colin Jerome and Jordyn Hanos is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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