1 Staggering Statistic: 33% of College Freshmen Drop Out

While working with colleges and universities across the country on a daily basis, we often hear many of the same challenges over and over—specifically concerns centered around student success and retention. 

Even though the populations, initiatives, and programs can vary drastically, on a national level there are some staggering statistics. In fact, a U.S. News article stated that “As many as 1 in 3 first-year students won't make it back for sophomore year.”

This is a statistic that colleges simply can’t ignore, and leaves many wondering what causes so many students to cut their college experience short. Colleges need to take a hard look at what can be done to turn the statistic around, and to do that, it’s necessary to look at WHY students are dropping out. While there can be a variety of factors involved, here’s a few that seem to come up regularly:

Emotional Readiness
A recent article from The Chronicle of Higher Education provides several insights on the challenges that many students face during their freshman year of college. Although each student’s experience can be very different, there are emotional readiness factors that seem to overlap.

"Several factors can contribute to "emotional readiness," including students’ ability to adapt to new environments, handle negative emotions in constructive ways, and forge healthy relationships. The survey found that the more prepared a student is for the emotional challenges of college — and for the anxieties that might come with it, such as covering expenses, making friends, and dealing with increased independence — the better and more successful that student’s college experience is."

According to the article, these factors can be the difference between a student feeling confident and excelling in their classes or a student falling behind and dropping out entirely.

Related resources:
Transitioning from High School to College
How Do I Keep Myself Socially and Emotionally Healthy?


Academic Preparedness
An article in the Washington Post shared that as many as one in four first-year college students must enroll in a remedial course, and that research has shown that “full-time undergraduate students who take such courses their first year are 74 percent more likely to drop out of college.

While there remains debate on where the responsibilities for getting students up-to-speed lies and the costs of such courses, the statistics are certainly troubling. One option that colleges can take action on now is continuing to build and enhance student support systems and—equally important—ensuring students are not only aware of these options, but not too intimidated or embarrassed to seek help when it is needed.

Related resource:
Where Do I Go for Academic Support?

Roommate/Financial Concerns
While certainly affecting student success, roommate troubles and financial issues are in a gray area regarding how much influence a college or university has and what can be done. In the case of resident housing, such as dorms, establishing a support network for students to access and having highly-effective RAs or Advisors in place can make a world of difference.

On the financial side, the cost of college is often a hurdle for the families of college-bound students. The financial burden of not only tuition, but textbooks, housing, and a variety of other expenses can add up quickly and all need to be accounted for. Having the Financial Aid and Admissions office work closely to ensure incoming students are fully aware of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—or FAFSA℠ for short—is critical.

Related resources:
What Concerns Should I Have About a Roommate?
Completing a FAFSA Training
How Do I Resolve Conflict?
How Do I Manage My Money?


What is your campus doing to help mitigate first-year student dropouts?

If your campus is an Atomic Learning subscriber, you already have access to College Success courses that can help prepare students with the skills they need for a successful college experience—and beyond.

If you liked this article, you may also like these:
3 Strategies for Decreasing Drop/Fail/Withdraw Rates
Student Success: Small Ideas can Lead to Big Improvements


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