Freshman Sense of Belonging: Paying Attention to Attrition, Part II

Yesterday we explored the issues of college freshman retention; today we’ll look at some successful programs — and talk about how Capture Higher Ed can help.

The first thing to do, and by far the most important: build freshman sense of belonging. The University of Texas, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, invites their highest at-risk students to a leadership-training program that includes on-campus internships and scholarships. UT also hosts an online pre-orientation session that “includes messages from current students describing how they overcame their own feelings that they didn’t belong or weren’t smart enough.” Of the 2013 cohort, a full 55 percent graduated in four years.

Next, redesign gateway courses. Instead of lecture-heavy introductory courses, these classes are being redesigned to reduce failing grades and withdrawals. Lansing Community College reorganized classes to be sure that students get the support they need sooner.

Supplemental instruction employs undergraduate and graduate students who excelled in a certain course to hold study sessions with first-year students — especially in “high risk courses.” Research by the University of Missouri at Kansas City — who’ve employed this program since 1973 — finds “that students who take advantage of supplemental instruction are much less likely to fail or withdraw from high-risk courses than those who don’t,” says the Chronicle, “18 percent versus 31 percent. Their final grades are higher, too.”

Data can help identify students who need extra help: an early-alert system. Technology has made this easier than ever, so that advisers can utilize intrusive advising: talking not just about academic issues but their social and emotional well-being. Southern Utah University calls these professionals, “Student success coaches.”

Can building freshman sense of belonging, redesigning gateway courses and the rest of these efforts be used at once? Certainly — and the jury is still out on the effectiveness of doing that, as “There’s been little research on the relative effectiveness of different approaches.”

And what about Capture Higher Ed? Our mission of finding the right school for the right student lies in data and technology, as well. What might a successful student look like for your particular school? Through a combination of Envision , with its data-driven capabilities to learn about the students who may be visiting your website or, in some cases, don’t yet know about you, as well as Capture Behavioral Engagement (CBE), which helps identify students that are visiting your academic, financial aid, and admissions page, we can find the student that is deeply interested in your school — and more likely to graduate. Utilizing incredible technology, we can align the students with the school that will best honor their drive, their interests and their dreams — and vice versa.

By Sean Hill, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed