student success

Building “grit” and determination for college completion by connecting students to the campus resources they need

Beth RichterJune 20, 2013
How can campuses help students find the resolve to overcome challenges and continue toward educational completion?

As you reflect upon the past academic year and turn your mind toward supporting the incoming class through to graduation, it is an appropriate time to ask, “How can we keep students encouraged and striving toward success?”

Taking into consideration the internal qualities that strengthen a student toward success in college, we think of opportunities as:

  • Encouraging students to believe that their efforts to succeed will be worthwhile and impact the completion of their educational goals;
  • Connecting students who are in need of assistance and receptive to assistance to the campus resources that will help them the most;
  • Helping students rebound from setbacks and begin anew rather than giving up; and
  • Encouraging an attitude to keep striving, no matter what.

These types of opportunities address attitudes that underlie our students’ behaviors. As educators, we’re accustomed to build upon these strong attitudes; or, if responses indicate a lack of will, then we counter them by challenging students toward more productive mindsets that will support development and attainment of academic, personal, and career goals.

How do we identify those opportunities, however? How do we see the strengths and goals of students, so as to keep them on the path to graduation while also getting them the assistance they may need to remain on that path?

The responses in the Noel-Levitz 2013 National Freshman Attitudes Report may have data points with apparent relevance. This report is based on aggregate data from more than 103,000 student responses from students who took the Noel-Levitz College Student Inventory.

Collectively, 91 percent of incoming students state that they are deeply committed to their educational goals and fully prepared to make the effort and sacrifices needed to attain them. That being said, only 59 percent of incoming students acknowledge they have developed a solid system of self-discipline that helps them to keep up with their studies. As an opportunity for influence, though, more than 59 percent of students in this study would like help improving these study habits. What might these findings suggest to you and your retention committee?

Another example shows how data can illuminate opportunities we can overlook, even when we may already be aware that an opportunity to increase student engagement and success exists. Consider that many campus colleagues recognize the strong motivating force of keeping students directed toward their future career goals. With that in mind, we would expect educators to build upon the nearly 65 percent of students in this study who state they have made a firm decision to enter a certain occupation and have begun planning their life around that decision. Yet, according to our data from the 2012 Freshman Attitudes Report at Mid-Year, two-year colleges are surpassing four-year colleges in this area, as even more students than who requested help with their educational plan at the beginning of their first-year received this assistance by mid-point of the first year; by contrast, four-year public and private colleges were not able to meet these expectations for educational planning, leaving respectively 24 percent and 27 percent of the students who sought this help without this service.

As we seek to guide more students toward graduation, with pressures related to gainful employment, performance funding, and other measures requiring accountability toward progress, extra attention to students’ initial determinations and requests for assistance in areas of educational planning can support the initial determination, as you seek to help students maintain focus on efforts that support their goal attainment, and persistence toward graduation. These examples show how data about student motivations and attitudes can uncover opportunities for success and help institutions pinpoint where limited resources could be used with the greatest impact.

Is your campus using student assessment to identify opportunities and challenges? How are you acting on the data if you do assess students? Please feel free to comment below or join the conversation with me on Twitter or send me an e-mail.

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