Improving Your College Student Retention Rate

retentionAs any experienced college admissions professional knows, recruiting quality students is only half the battle. In fact, some studies have shown that 1 in 3 enrolled freshmen will not come back for their sophomore year. Add to this the number of students who choose to transfer and you’ve got quite the challenge on your hands. That said, let’s take a look at some tips for improving the retention rate of your higher education institution.

Identify the wants and needs of students. What is it that your freshmen want that they aren’t getting at your school? What’s causing the dreaded “sophomore slump”? You can’t begin to improve retention rate until you understand what it will take to effectively do so.

Build a culture of student success. Every single staff member – from faculty to administrators – should clearly and completely understand the role that he or she plays in helping enrolled students succeed, every step of the way. When students feel as though they have a solid support system on whom they can rely, they’re more likely to push forward with their education.

Focus on engagement. Once a student has enrolled, what kind of relationship will they have with the school, faculty and other staff? What action plan does your higher education institution have in place to keep students involved and make them feel like a part of something bigger? Engagement is one of the biggest drivers of ongoing retention.

Develop specific retention initiatives. The reason students leave will vary based on a number of factors. Your retention initiatives should be developed and deployed based on these factors. For instance, the strategy to retain freshmen should be geared toward keeping them engaged and successful enough that they want to return, while retention plans for sophomores or juniors should address their differing reasons for leaving.

Track data and celebrate successes. Measure your school’s retention rate and track how it correlates with the initiatives you’ve got in place to see what’s working and what could use some tweaking. Communicate and celebrate successes with everyone that played a role and demonstrate the impact their hard work has had on the results.

Getting students to stay enrolled throughout their entire tenure can dramatically improve your school’s bottom line. It can also produce a more substantial group of alumni that will further support the success of your institution for many years to come.

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