• Best Practices

Admissions is the Foundation for Retention

George Covino

The admissions office is generally responsible for managing an institution’s enrollment plans and shaping each incoming and transfer class; however, has your institution thought about admissions’ role in its retention plans?

In an article about using the admissions process to help create a solid foundation for student retention, University Business Magazine encourages institutions to adopt the following practices:

Present a realistic portrayal of institutional life.
It’s important that applicants understand what kind of students succeed at your institution. They need to know the support resources that are available once they enroll. Perhaps most important is that applicants have an accurate picture of what the campus culture is all about. Students are more likely to succeed when there is a good fit between campus culture and their own values and abilities. Getting prospective students to spend time on campus through visits, tours and other programs is a good way for them to get a sense of the culture of an institution.

Link admission decisions to an assessment of graduation requirements.
Given what you know about the applicant, what are the chances of her being able to fulfill the academic program requirements she wants to enroll in? Does she have the ability to succeed with math, language or writing requirements? Do you have the resources to support her if she doesn't and decides to enroll anyway? Would the student be better served attending a different type of institution where there is more of a match between academic rigor and the student’s abilities? These are tough questions to ask when there is so much pressure to reach enrollment goals, but if you are admitting the wrong students, or not supporting those who meet your mission (i.e. open enrollment), you are contributing to a “churn and burn” situation that will have a negative impact on retention and graduation rates.

Identify students at risk, and connect them with appropriate offices on campus.
If you have a student with a disability, are you linking that student with the disability support services provided prior to his/her arrival on campus? If a student is a member of an underserved population, is he/she being connected with peer, faculty and administrative mentors and services? Your campus will want to look at enrollment processes to identify when and where this happens and ensure that students are not “dropping through the cracks” or left on their own to figure things out.

Analyze the data.
Your institution should study retention and graduate rates and identify the characteristics of those students who are successful and those who are not. Is there data from their background that would have indicated likelihood for success that needs to be built into future admission decisions? Were there opportunities to connect students with resources early on that could have made a difference in their academic success?

As with all institutional efforts, communication and teamwork are key.
Does your admissions office have a seat on the retention committee? Is key data being shared across departments? Your admissions office needs to share applicant information that will be helpful in guiding students through their programs. They should also be able to look at student success data that will help fine tune the admissions process.

I’d love to hear about how your institution is involving admissions in the retention process! Send me your comments or questions via email, Twitter or LinkedIn. If you’d like to find out how Student Connections’ Success Center can play a role in helping your students be more successful, you can request a demo here.

George CovinoGeorge Covino is Student Connections’ vice president of student success.