Published on 2012/04/16

Student Retention Starts At The Start, Not The End

Student Retention Starts At The Start, Not The End
Higher educational professionals must make an effort to get to know their students and invest in their success in order for students to grow and succeed. Photo by Brent Rostad.

Before you know it the students are graduating, walking across the stage and the first thing that comes to your mind is, “Was that Michael F. or Michael H.? No, wait Michael isn’t graduating, that’s his brother. No, his brother graduated last year, who is that kid?”

After the graduation ceremony the student greets you and you are standing there puzzled not knowing who they are or which program they were in. So let’s start with the basics, Day 1, who are your students that you are responsible for?

From personal experience and discussions with other higher education professionals, the first action that a higher education professional must take is getting to know who their students are in the school. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, advisor, or counselor, you have to meet these students from day one. The bottom line is; they are the reason that you are in your position, to lead, educate and to motivate.

In my recent years of being in trade and technical schools, I discovered that the students do not meet you until it is necessary and that needs to change. For the Admissions, after the benchmark period of “knowing” the student, the next time you greet them or speak with them is graduation if that. Your enthusiasm is what brought them to the school and your enthusiasm will keep them in the school. Examples that can help this are speaking with their teachers on their progression, a quick email to see how they are meeting their goal, invitation to a student recruitment event(hint; this may help with increasing your enrollment numbers), or a simple phone call after their classes ended to say hi if you miss them in the hallway. Remember you played a major role in bringing them to the school. You also play the same role as instructors in keeping them in the school.

For instructors, your experience in the field that you are teaching is essential to helping the student stay in class. Now, some institutions may be against me on this next point, but I think the idea will help spark creativity in the classroom.

I would advise to have your students do outside activities that relate to the curriculum. Don’t make it a 2-week project, make it an activity that they can do on their own time and doesn’t take up the lifespan of their collegiate timeline. If all 30-300 students are reading the same chapter, same homework assignment, and same lesson plan without expansion of their minds, you the instructor will become bored from constant repetition. The students will then become bored; complaints will rise to the Dean’s Level, Chancellor’s Level and possibly the President’s Level and eventually the student drops. Treat your 2nd day, 3rd day and your last day with your students like it was their first day on campus. Instructors, keep the students wanting more not only from the school but from you.

I find that the school that has the highest retention rates are the schools that have every department on one accord in making sure students are in school, graduating and excelling in life.

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Readers Comments

Daniela Thomas 2012/04/17 at 11:18 am

How can you expect to guide a student in the right direction when they’re only coming to see you in an emergency?

That said, at my institution we have a number of student advisors who work on a first-come-first-serve basis…. in their office in the basement.

Advisors need to be given more geographical prominence on campus, and they need to have a mandate with specific students they are meant to serve. You can’t advise someone out of a portfolio.

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