How Important is Retention Rate When Looking at Colleges?

Several factors feed into the overall reputation and rating of universities, including college retention rate. This rate is a figure showing how many first-time, first year students remained with a respective institution and is often coupled with the graduation rate from specific programs. But how important is the retention rate for individuals to consider when applying for schools? In the following article, we explore why prospective students should pay attention to this figure during their research and how it can help narrow the selection of schools to which they apply.

The First Year

While the retention rate of a college or university represents a host of different considerations in and of itself, it’s an excellent indicator of how responsive the institution is to the needs of new students. If you’re applying to colleges for the first time, it can be difficult to imagine precisely how your life will change during your initial year away from home.

With certain exceptions, most universities require incoming students to live on campus. In effect, this forces students to take an immersive approach to college life, creating professional and personal bonds that will assist them in the next steps of their educational careers. However, even if first-time students are permitted to reside in other locations off campus, there are many difficult experiences with which they must contend.

It’s an entirely different type of stress, with different consequences and rewards, deadlines and challenges. What you can tell at a glance by looking at the college retention rate is how responsive an institution is to the needs of these students. During the first year, most students will experience the greatest challenges because they have not yet become fully integrated into the college community they’ve entered. If the university can report a high retention rate, it tells prospective students that there are resources to help them cope with or mitigate the new experiences and demands of college life.

Student Success is University Success

What administrations have discovered, often through trial and error, is that providing resources for students increases their potential retention rate. Programs like writing or tutoring centers provide students with avenues to seek help if they are struggling with a class. But college life is also about social engagement and interaction. Without this outlet, students are more likely to drop out, however many tutors or writing programs are made available.

Social clubs that attract students and offer them some opportunities specific to club members, such as parties, community activity days, and goal-oriented charitable work help to anchor students within a collegiate landscape. While these have typically been of the Greek variety, fraternities and sororities aren’t the only ones actively engaging new students. Many institutions are home to a number of interest-specific organizations, and freshmen students can find a niche that fulfills their need for social engagement.

Other approaches offer a personalized guide to the college experience. Counseling professionals are available on many campuses to assist individuals in mapping out where they want to go academically. These professionals have access to a host of data and are current in their knowledge of the campus offerings—both academic and social—that can assist students as they work towards graduation.

While financial assistance in the form of grants and scholarships, course offerings, and respective academic or professional ranking are all important to consider when applying to universities, it’s critical that you investigate all aspects of an institution. By assessing a college retention rate for each university, you’ll know whether or not that school will be a good fit for you and where you want to go in life.