Student Retention Strategies: How To Decrease Dropout Rates

December 4, 2018 - 9 minutes read

There are three stages that every student should pass through to have a successful higher education experience which are belongingness, engagement, and retention.

At the individual level, students must feel connected to the university which helps in developing relationships with others. Then comes the engagement stage, where students get involved in university activities. Once students feel like a part of the university, they can thrive in the environment and thus choose to finish their course.

Student retention strategies precisely aim at building this kind of relationship between the students and the college, where the former feel safe and well supported. And implementing these strategies will decrease dropout rates in the long run.

In this article, I’ll take you through 5 student retention strategies that you can follow to increase retention rates at your university.

Create A Perfect First-Year Experience

Students end up dropping out of college due to several factors. But the most common one is the lack of integration. They never feel like a part of the campus community, get used to an academic environment, or they lack confidence. That’s why you need to implement a first-year experience program.

Create a small community within your campus for first-year students. This will help them socialize and build relationships with fellow students and faculty members. Also, the students will demonstrate positive relationships with peers and faculty, make better use of campus resources, and display time-management skills.

In addition to that, you can set up learning communities to increase engagement among students. You should also encourage first-year students to join career development programs which will help them plan their career, all of which will motivate students to push through barriers and remain enrolled.

Collect Data And Put It to Good Use

Universities must gather data on curriculum effectiveness, student achievement, and resource allocation to address the problem of low student retention rates. Once you have this data, you can use it to enhance student retention efforts. A good way to collect data is through polls and surveys.

By creating surveys you can initiate a two-way conversation, understand student psyche, record their responses, and curtail issues before they arise. But it requires a lot of effort if you follow the old paper and pen method of conducting a survey. To ease the process, you can create SMS surveys and make follow-ups based on it. All you have to do is create a survey and send out text messages to your students. Your initial message can say:

Administrator: Hi Amanda, It’s Brenda from the administration office. As you know we’ve updated student curriculum for this semester and we’d like to know what you think of it. Can you spend 5 minutes to answer a few questions?

Amanda: Yes, count me in 👍

Once a student responds you can make a note of their response in the survey forms. This will help you follow-up with students and send reminders for important events.

Early Risk-Detection

Every struggling student faces a common downward spiral. It looks like: a few missed classes leads to a failed exam, which leads to a low midterm grade, and ultimately withdrawal from the program.

Recognizing these early warning signals is the key to helping these students cope. But you’ve got thousands of students and looking into each one of them can seem impossible. This is where you can use SMS to deliver thousands of texts to students reminding them to study for an upcoming test, work on an assignment or submit a project before the deadline, within minutes.

You can customize these texts to each student’s profile and you can collect real-time responses. The goal here is to provide timely support to students struggling to keep up with the demands of university-level academics.

Develop Intervention Programs

An easy way to reach out to at-risk students before they leave is by implementing a student referral program. Send information and resources available in your university that can help them address the issue at hand. The issue could be academic difficulties, personal problems, financial issues, or social problems.

Getting students to talk about these issues requires them to connect with you on a personal level. But your guidance counselors don’t have enough time to talk to each student. What you can do is use tools like peer-to-peer texting to have personal conversations at scale. Your staff or counselors can easily manage several conversations over text, get to know the students, identify their problems, and give them the right the resources to solve their problems.

A guided conversation looks like:

Counselor: Hi Amanda, I’m Brenda your college coach. Are you facing any difficulties in your current academic curriculum?

Student: I’m not able to recall what has been done in class. I go back home read and watch videos but it’s not sticking in my head when it’s time to take the test. What can I do?

Counselor: Have you tried joining a study group?

Student: No, not yet. I’m not sure if I can concentrate in a group.

Counselor: You should definitely give it a shot. I was in one and it was great because you can talk about what your professor discussed and you’ll hear various versions of it and that can be super helpful.

Student: Okay I’ll try that and let you know how it goes. Thanks!

Counselor: Good luck! And you’re welcome 😁

Promote Your Campus Support Services Consistently And Creatively

If you think listing your campus support services on your website or mentioning it on your social media channels is enough, you’re wrong!

Campus support resources such as academic counseling, career planning, alumni mentorship, financial aid, and free tutoring should be showcased regularly and creatively.

Your students need encouragement to seek help and making your campus services more visible is the first step you should be taking. What you can do is get your students to opt-in to your campus services via text. Once they do you can reach out to them, connect with them, share updates, reminders, and provide the necessary resources.

For example, you can display an ad (on your website and social media) saying:
Text “CAMPUS” to 56887 to get personalized campus support services.

Once a student texts the keyword send an automated reply saying something like this:
Thank for joining our text list! Expect to receive support services such as academic counseling, financial aid, alumni mentorship and more.

Take time to implement the student retention strategies at your institution. If you’re planning on improving your drop-out rates, check out CallHub’s text messaging software. For further information reach out to us at [email protected]

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