College Student Retention Best Practices
Heidi Zwart
college student retention best practices

Competition for students is fierce among colleges and universities. As a result, schools increasingly need to keep students enrolled once they admit them. College student retention best practices vary but some common themes emerge among those who research this challenge.  

Strong support services

Colleges and universities need to consider avenues for providing students with holistic support. During this critical life stage, the traditional college population is entering a new phase of developmental growth. They are transitioning from childhood to adulthood, with independence and freedom of choice at their fingertips. While some embrace this transition, others need more guided support to manage this transition. Accessible counseling services, academic support, on-campus faith groups, wellbeing services, and peer to peer counseling can all have a positive impact on student retention. 

Develop student success life cycles

Students being engaged early in their college experience is a student retention best practice. Focusing on creating a strong, supportive experience for first year students increases the likelihood that they will continue through program completion. This significantly impacts an institution’s bottomline. Efforts in this area might include freshman seminars, mid-year check-in’s, learning communities, career preparation, service opportunities, wellbeing initiatives, and capstone projects. Laying a progressive pathway for the college experience helps improve student retention. 

Create strong cultures

Much like the impact managers have on their employees, college faculty have an equally strong impact on the college student experience. Even if a student is dissatisfied with the institution at large, they may stay because of a single professor or the strong culture within a department. When faculty are engaged in the wellbeing of their students, student retention follows. Professor competence and care are both key qualities that impact student retention. According to Gallup, graduates who were emotionally supported during college – who had a mentor who encouraged their hopes and dreams and professors who cared about them as people and made them excited about learning – are three times as likely to have thriving wellbeing after college. This creates supportive alumni who further support the institution after graduation. 

Improving student wellbeing

Encircling all of the aforementioned student retention best practices is student wellbeing. Gallup’s higher ed division reports that, “Higher education gives people the knowledge they need to build an engaged life, and the five elements of wellbeing are the currency of a life that matters.” Without attention and support to a student’s holistic health, a student will not stay enrolled or engaged in their college experience. Wellbeing addresses a student’s physical, social, and emotional health. Students with thriving wellbeing stay engaged in their educational experience and are more likely to finish their degree. Therefore, it’s important to measure both progress and outcomes of wellbeing initiatives. Data collection provides an objective measure of student success so you can tailor other initiatives to support students where they need it most. 

Since wellbeing is at the forefront of student retention best practices, recruiting a partner with proven success is crucial. is Institutions across the country trust BetterYou to help them improve their student retention by supporting student wellbeing. 

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