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3 Strategies for Boosting Student Retention

More than 70% of US students will study at a 4-year degree college. However, student retention data shows us that less than 2/3 will graduate with a degree. One of the biggest determining factors in why a student drops out may surprise you: Back in 2008, economic hardships were the most obvious answer. In 2018, students cite the balance of life, jobs, and school as the primary driver of college drop-outs.

Even as online colleges and community colleges create greater opportunities for students across all age brackets, economic backgrounds and geographical locations, many institutions struggle to keep pace with the issues facing their diverse student body from achieving their ultimate goal: preparation for a valuable and profitable career.

To tackle growing student retention problems, career and academic advisors should look into key strategies that address, preemptively, the needs of the coming workforce:

1. Engaging Students—Early

30% of first-year college students drop out within their first semester. Colleges cannot afford to wait until the second year for students to begin thinking about how their chosen college program will factor into their career planning.

Student Retention - Data Driven Assessments

Ultimately, academic issues for dropout rates and low student retention can be boiled down to:

  • Inadequate preparation to meet the demands of college work
  • Disinterest in one’s own course content

Moreover, while dropout rates remain high, perhaps more interestingly only 56% of college students complete their chosen college program.

So, how do we put students on the right path? For those many “undecided” students (about 20-50% of students entering college), there’s a number of places to begin.

Career advisors should begin getting students to discuss how their interests correlate with their academics. The Director of Career Services should work with career & academic advisors to excite students about career planning and how coursework plays into their future goals. First-year students, regardless of being undecided, need to begin thinking about how to shape their academics around post-college goals.

College life can be daunting to many, with seemingly endless possibilities for chosen paths. Career advisors should have a streamlined engagement plan for periodic check-in with students. In the white paper, Understanding and Increasing Student Retention, our research found that “…the most statistically effective strategy to increase student persistence would be to better align students with their intellectual interests and strengths.”

From there, student assessments are a great tool for assessing how interests can align with real job opportunities. We’ll go into further details on these types of assessments in the next section.

2. Harnessing the Power of Student Assessments

Student Retention - Personalized Student Experience

Student assessments are becoming more and more imperative for understanding how interests, hobbies, and goals can translate into majors and careers. Frankly, many students and first-time job hunters just don’t know the full extent of what career opportunities are out there.

Student assessments are an important counseling educational tool for the high-ed tech to use to make education more personalized. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2021, “…more than 50% of higher education institutions will begin redesigning their student experience with the goal of making it more integrated and personalized.”

Data-driven student assessments fall in line with these personalization trends.

Student assessments are at the heart of Gartner’s personalized student experience model, as they allow students to not only select their broader interests, but forces students to interact and reflect on the specifics of those chosen interests. This puts a great deal of power in the hands of students in determining their future endeavors.

To learn more about how student assessments, like Awato’s, can benefit your academic body, click here.

3. Building a Career Plan with Career Advisors

Beyond tools for just students, career advisors and Directors of Career Planning should be armed with the necessary toolkit to guide students once they’ve set the course for their area of study.

Student Retention - Personalized Guidance

Once an assessment of interests has been completed, career advisors should then begin building out academic mappings for students to understand what course work aligns with their chosen professional interests. Here, the heavy lifting is done, so to speak, from those career advisors.

There are a number of services career advisors should offer for students in preparing them for life post-college:

  • Resume building
  • Academic advising
  • Internship preparation and mentorship
  • Career preparation
  • Job hunting

Many universities and colleges often struggle to find the time necessary to deliver on all of these services and to give the kind of “personalized” guidance students need throughout their time at a university. Luckily, tech continues to streamline how career advisors can prioritize these activities.

More universities are allowing their Career Planning departments to invest in platforms that allow tracking of all of these activities, including resume builder and job posting. If you’d like to learn how your career advisor can address the needs of students, click the button below.

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