Student Success: Tools for Guiding Students on the FAFSA

Spring is here! And, while graduation is around the corner for some students, others need to prep for their return next fall by getting necessary paperwork together to apply for Financial Aid.

If students don't seem to be utilizing the Financial Aid office and support resources your campus offers, it may be a matter of awareness—especially for incoming freshmen.

Recently, we came across the brief video series below featuring comedian Adam Conover of truTV's Adam Ruins Everything and thought it could be a valuable engagement tool for partner colleges looking to encourage students to take advantage of financial assistance.

Enjoy these fun, informal (but fact-based) videos that debunk several Financial Aid myths:

The Real Truth About Financial Aid

Looking for ways to help students with the FAFSA?
The Completing the FAFSA course provides a step-by-step guide to the often intimidating form.

And, once the application is in, it might not be a bad idea to recommend Personal Finance Basics to help them make sound financial decisions—now and in the future.

For additional resources on setting students up for success in college and beyond, including Choosing a Major, Transitioning from High School to College, and many more, be sure to check out Hoonuit by Atomic Learning's college success courses.

3 Strategies for Decreasing Drop/Fail/Withdraw Rates

A DFW rate is the rate at which college students receive D-grades, F-grades, or Withdraws from courses. Some colleges and universities are now using this data in regards to budget and performance reviews. Now, more than ever before, these rates are being looked at, and unfortunately, these rates are also on the rise.

Although there are many reasons why students withdraw from courses, faculty members can really only control their side of the story. For those looking to make a positive shift, here are three strategies for decreasing DFW rates and increasing student retention:

  1. Assessing
    Try assessing students’ knowledge of the required information at the beginning of the semester or start of a course. This allows aculty members to get a feel for which students may need more dedicated attention, and which students will probably be fine on their own. This pre-test can also help gauge which portions of the curriculum instructors might need to spend more time on.

    While there is no perfect solution, taking the time to measure and understand students' level of knowledge can make learning easier for everyone.

    Assessing students doesn’t need to be time consuming. With Atomic Learning’s skills assessments, faculty members can easily assign an assessment to a particular groups of individuals.

  2. Preparing
    Make it as easy as possible for students to know the basics. Not all students come into a course with the same knowledge or skill set, and changing your curriculum to go over basics for a smaller segment of students isn’t always an option. Not only would that slow down the course, but also hinder those students who would otherwise excel. By providing students that are struggling with tailored coursework, those students can more easily advance to the same level as their peers.

    Give students access to the specific resources they need, including items like MLA Research Paper Basics, Avoiding Plagiarism, Effective Note Taking, and more. Such resources can also help keep class time focused on the core content you are trying to teach. 

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?

Student Success: Small Ideas can Lead to Big Improvements

Implementing a student success strategy across campus is beyond important.

The success of every college student is at the top of an institution’s goals. However, reviewing processes, implementing changes, and working to evolve faculty practices can take time. Change takes commitment and isn’t always easy.

That said, there may be small, inexpensive ideas that educators can try to put into action to help with student success, while bigger changes are being planned out.

We recently read an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that explores how researchers are taking a more behavioral approach to improving student success, and looking at what students go through emotionally when applying and working through college… “Researching colleges, applying, filing the FAFSA, registering for classes — the whole process of getting to and through college can be seen as a series of complex decisions crying out for a nudge.”

The article discusses several ways researchers have made an impact using small and inexpensive ideas. For example, researchers Ben Castleman and Lindsay C. Page, “tested a simple, cheap solution: Send at-risk students a series of customized text-message reminders that they could reply to for extra help. The messages raised enrollment substantially…”.   

3 Essential Strategies for Student Success

Research shows that 1 out of 3 students drop out of college after their first year—making it more critical than ever that they are prepared with the skills they need to be successful, and prompting many institutions to take a hard look at their current student success strategy.

If you’re campus is among them, here are three essential strategies you can put into action today that can have a lasting impact:

Evaluate and Ramp up Your Existing Orientation Program
Orientation is all about getting off on the right foot, so make sure that incoming students have a sense of community, feel safe, and are equipped with the self-management skills they need to succeed in college and beyond.

One example would be integrating resources, such as Atomic Learning course on “Becoming a Better Test Taker”, “Preparing for a College Workload”, or “Being a Better Note Taker” into a First Year Experience (FYE) course or another freshman intro course.

Focus on Student Success: Study Techniques [Infographic]

The infographic below summarizes recent findings on study habits and techniques of college students—the results may surprise you.

Studying Tips
Infographic by Stop Procrastinating

Interested in improving your own study skills or those of your students? Atomic Learning offers an array of professional online learning resources focused on ensuring students' college and career success, including:

How Do I Become a Good Note-Taker?
Do you forget information you hear? Master the art of note-taking with this informative online course. Learn why it's important, what approach may fit your learning style best, and why and when you should revisit your notes.

How Do I Become a Better Test Taker?
Preparing for and taking tests can fill some people with anxiety. In this course, you will learn strategies that can help you overcome that stress and be more successful when taking tests.

How Do I Manage My Time?
With all of the classes, homework, work, and activities that happen in college, managing your time wisely can be difficult. In this invaluable course, you'll learn methods and tips for managing your time.

Where Do I Go for Academic Support?
College can be overwhelming! This course will help you find the resources, on campus and online, to achieve academic success, as well as help you determine which may be right for you and your situation.

Interested in learning more about these online resources and others to ensure students are equipped with the skills they need to succeed in college and beyond? Visit or contact us today.

Student Success: The Importance of the First Year [Infographic]

Each students level of success during college is dependent upon a vast array of factors, and for many freshman, the first year proves to be too much.

According to UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute, who published the infographic below, about 25% of freshmen students do not return for their sophomore year. A recent U.S. News article pushed that number even further, stating, "As many as 1 in 3 first-year students won't make it back for sophomore year."

To help colleges and universities more fully support their students—freshman in particular—Atomic Learning will soon be publishing a multitude of new online courses focused on helping prepare students with the skills needed for a successful college experience.

Sample topics include:

  • working with a group
  • choosing a major
  • being a more effective writer
  • succeeding in an online class
  • becoming a better test taker
  • and many more!

Student Retention Levels Aren't Where They Should Be... Now What?

If you're facing this reality, you may want to consider how (or if) you are supporting all students, regardless of their skill level. Are you encouraging learning and reaching students outside of traditional instruction?

Atomic Learning provides 24/7 self-paced training, when and where it's needed in a non-intimidating way--to students--as well as faculty and staff. Also, formative and summative assessment tools for instructors to help gauge the impact of learning where each user may need additional help.

Take a look at some of the resources aligned to addressing student engagement:
How-to Training
Skills Assessments
• Training on Computer Literacy Basics

Intrigued? Learn more at