As parents of two college students, fostering a love of learning has been a priority for Bill and me since our daughters started preschool. But as the saying goes, “You are only as happy as your saddest child.” Adjusting to college and thriving in the college environment has seemed mysterious to most of us, even those of us who have spent our careers in higher education. Why do some students adjust so quickly to college and others do not?
We know that being engaged, finding a mentor, multitasking, developing time-management skills and demonstrating the ability to handle newfound freedom constructively are all important characteristics of successful college students. We also know that preparation for college, the strength of a particular high school, the support of family and financial stability are factors that can either give students a “leg up” or provide significant challenges to some students’ adjustment to college and academic performance, at least in the first year. Last but not least, we are well aware that today’s students face constant distractions arising from the prevalence of technology in their daily lives, and some struggle to manage these distractions.
At Bellarmine, we are hoping to conquer some of these issues. We know that every student we admit to the university is capable of succeeding. Some students will adjust very quickly to their newfound world, some will do OK, and some will falter. Believing in the potential of each student and providing a thorough orientation certainly helps to pave the way to success, but we also realize that many students are facing academic and personal challenges that can result in anxiety, underperformance and disengagement.
The question is, which ones? And how do we best intervene with those students who are not adjusting?
Fortunately for us, a small group of our staff and faculty was interested in working on a model that could help more of our students not only succeed, but excel at Bellarmine. You can read about their award-winning work in this issue of Bellarmine Magazine. We were able to raise the retention rate of first-year students by 6 percent from fall 2017 to fall 2018 using their First-Year Predictive Model. This success bodes well for even greater retention for all students.
I hope you enjoy reading about this groundbreaking work that is helping to put Bellarmine University on the map and to keep students coming back.
Dr. Susan M. Donovan | firstname.lastname@example.org