Key to Student Retention — Strong Advising
Preventing the sophomore slump, tips on increasing enrollment
discussed at annual Noel-Levitz conference
By Michelle Nealy
Thirteen percent of freshmen in public four-year institutions will drop out by the beginning of their sophomore year, according to the National College Dropout and Graduation Rates report released recently.
How to ensure that sophomores succeed was one of many retention issues discussed at the annual Noel-Levitz National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing and Retention held in Washington last month.
In “Taking Sophomores From Slump to Success,” Dr. Laurie Schreiner, chair of doctoral studies in education at Azusa Pacific University, offered tips on how to stay connected with sophomores.
“The sophomore slump often goes unrecognized on our campuses,” Schreiner said. “We assume that those who survive to be sophomores are headed for success. We’re focusing on our seniors, the juniors and the freshmen, but we’re ignoring the sophomores.”
There are a number of things that can be done during the first year to prevent second-year drop out, Schreiner said during the conference. She recommended sophomore orientation programs similar to mandatory freshmen orientation classes and mandatory advising sessions during the final days of a student’s freshman year. Schreiner also suggested that colleges and universities remind their second-year students that the institution is committed to their welfare. She proposed an end-of-the-year letter to rising sophomores, which includes things they can look forward to. A welcome-back event at the beginning of the second year was another suggestion offered. In addition, colleges may want to have sophomores participate in freshman seminars. By helping first-year students, sophomores are likely to feel needed and appreciated.
Schreiner emphasized that the most essential element of retention is strong advising. “Students leave because they are unsure of their future,” she said. Schreiner warned the audience of mostly academic counselors to pay close attention to students’ interests — incorporating their passions into proper class selection and solid financial planning. Instead of problems, focus on possibilities, Schreiner said.
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