The efforts to improve matriculation and increase retention, both on campus and through community-based programs, are important, diverse and not well understood beyond academia. Yet clear “success indicators” exist, but effective implementation of these indicators varies widely among diverse schools and sometimes among diverse faculty and administrators on the same campus.

CHERE provides technical assistance to campuses, community-based agencies, and access programs that could benefit from an outside look at their access, first-year experience, or overall retention efforts, including insights into consistent application of such success indicators.

What Does Research on Promising and Best Practices Tell Us About FYE and Retention?

  1. Importance of exposure to college life, even the idea of going to college – or some other form of post-secondary education – while in high school, even middle school – including regular, systematic assessment of deficits and efforts to address those to arrive at agreed-upon state of “college readiness” – better measures needed, Accuplacer, Compass and beyond.
  2. Value of participation in a bridge program, both “summer before” and earlier (e.g., summer programs, before enrollment, that combine skill-building, assessment, deficit reduction, and fun).
  3. Once on campus, quickly getting to know a significant adult (e.g., faculty, counselor, Peer Mentor) who knows youths’ name and background – ideally in communication with high school counselor/advisor via “seamless counseling.”
  4. Inventorying campus survival skills (e.g., David’s “Campus and Life Success Plan” – see copies).
  5. Quality FYE course: content and process with an interactive teacher.   FYE courses are the cutting edge of effective retention.   If freshmen do not get off to a good start, they’re in trouble.
  6. Early exposure to career interests, especially at community colleges
  7. Compatible roommate(s) and other friends
  8. Quickly getting involved on campus: formal and informal bonding
  9. Early exposure to the library, Liberians, library resources
  10. Developing discipline about studying – ideally, learned in high school, but it’s never too late – minimum of partying.
  11. Participating in learning communities: FYE, other courses, group projects.
  12. Not too much paid work
  13. Lack of financial worries and not too much debt
  14. Special focus on writing and research skills
  15. Maintaining healthy family connections

(Note: The book/inventory/guide, Fulfilling the Promise of Community Colleges, from The National Center for First Year Experience and Students in Transition (2011) provides an excellent set of articles on “what works at community colleges,” including a larger survey of community college students.)