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Successes and Setbacks: What Students Say Are the Biggest Factors in College Outcomes

Carlo Bertolini

Student feedback plays a big role at Student Connections. Our interactive student success technology wouldn’t exist without the help of our Student Advisory Boards. That’s because the learning process between institutions and students is bidirectional – as long as all parties are willing to listen.

Because our best customers are always willing to do just that, we are always looking to share fresh student insight. As part of that process, we recently commissioned a student success survey, polling nearly 1,300 former college students. We designed the survey to shed light on three areas:

  1. How students define success.
  2. What obstacles students had to overcome to lead a successful life.
  3. What skills and resources students think were helpful in achieving success.

A deeper knowledge of student aspirations, what they view as their biggest challenges, and what they value most as tools for success is important to understanding today’s students. It can help schools deliver postsecondary outcomes that better correspond with success as seen from the perspective of their most important stakeholders. To thoroughly summarize findings with the potential to help institutions strengthen the effectiveness of their student success initiatives, we are reviewing the survey results in a series of three white papers. Part one, available today, focuses on how students define success. Parts two and three will cover obstacles to success and factors that empower student success, respectively.

To qualify for this survey, respondents had to be former college students that completed a college course within the past five years. We analyzed consolidated results as well as segmented data. The survey includes crosstabulation by student age, highest level of education, time span since last college course, full-time versus part-time status, historically black college or university (HBCU) status, gender, and first-generation student status.

In what is likely a finding that will surprise few, students overall measure success by two principal outcomes: earning a stable income and doing what makes them happy in life. They expect college to be a bridge to a lifestyle that is both personally and professionally rewarding so that they can support the needs of themselves and their families while also feeling fulfilled in the pursuit of their life’s work.

But there were some interesting correlations and contrasts in how various segments of students weighted their responses. For more details, we invite you to download the full paper. We will publish parts two and three over the next two months. We hope you find the information useful in your efforts to tailor your resources to the diverse needs, challenges and opportunities that are present in your own student population.

Download the white paper today and stay tuned for parts two and three coming soon.

Carlo BertoliniCarlo Bertolini is Student Connections’ marketing content manager.