student success

What do college freshmen need to succeed in the classroom?

Ruffalo Noel LevitzMay 29, 2012

The illustration above highlights findings from the 2012 National Freshman Attitudes Report, recently released by Noel-Levitz.  Along with identifying needs for college freshmen as a whole, the report identifies the specific needs of subpopulations, as shown, to assist institutions with identifying and targeting appropriate educational interventions.

In addition to the examples above which focus on students’ self-reported receptivity to academic assistance, the report also examines many other student attitudes and motivations for specific segments of students. For example:

  • Only 38 percent of male freshmen nationally in 2011-2012 indicated their agreement with the statement, “I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from reading” vs. 54 percent of females.
  • Hispanic freshmen indicated that they were more willing to make sacrifices to achieve their educational goals than were freshmen from other racial/ethnic groups, but reported that they had a weaker understanding of the physical sciences.
  • Students from private and public four-year institutions reported the strongest desire and determination to finish college, followed by students from private and public two-year institutions.

New this year, the study also looks at changes in student attitudes that affect academic success as students progressed through their classes, comparing attitudes at the beginning vs. the middle of the freshman year. Among these findings:

  • Freshmen, as a whole, appear to become more tolerant of others’ opinions after half a year of college, with 60 percent agreeing with the statement, “I get along well with people who disagree with my opinion openly” at the beginning of the year vs. 66 to 71 percent at the middle of the year.
  • Desire to receive tutoring in one or more courses fell just 3 to 7 percentage points between the beginning of the year compared to the middle of the year, with 32 percent to 46 percent of students continuing to desire this assistance at mid-year.

In addition, an examination of changes in freshman attitudes between the beginning vs. the middle of the freshman year showed that many freshmen who expressed interest in receiving assistance with career planning at the beginning of the academic year hadn’t received it yet at mid-year.

The findings in this report illustrate the importance of monitoring students’ attitudes and behaviors and following up with appropriate services in order to help more of students complete their coursework and succeed in college.

“When students are receptive to assistance and open to the opinions of others, colleges have a real opportunity to make a difference,” said Lewis Sanborne, Ph.D., an executive consultant with Noel-Levitz and former dean at St. Ambrose University. “Generally speaking, the higher the receptivity to institutional help, the greater the likelihood of successful student outcomes.”

For the complete study, visit  The findings on incoming students are based on 94,000 student records from 315 colleges and universities nationwide, with a subset of these records identifying the attitudinal shifts between the beginning vs. the middle of the freshman year.

Note: A previous version of this graphic reported incorrect figures on the number of students who received tutoring by mid year. This mistake has been corrected.

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