Leveraging Student Services to Increase First-Year Student Persistence


Up to 33% of students will not return to college for their second year. The factors that contribute to poor student retention are many, and higher ed institutions must adopt a creative and varied approach to ensure their freshman come back for sophomore year.

One way to stop the slow bleed of students who quit and to increase persistence (the number who stay) is to enrich student services and ensure they meet student needs.

Research shows that if students are going to leave college, they usually do it during their first year or before their second year begins. This makes it key to target Freshman with stellar student services. Though students may drop out later in their college career, keep the emphasis on those who may be most unfamiliar with campus opportunities and protocol: first-year students.

Below we will take a look at which student services can be leveraged to increase persistence of first-year students, and how you might go about using them to support students and encourage them to stay in school.

Financial Aid

Unfortunately, many students drop out due to trouble with their financial aid or belief that school was unaffordable. Sometimes this can be as simple as students failing to accept money they were offered, which arguably puts the burden on schools to make financial aid accessible, timely and easy to accept. Use a digital platform such as AwardLetter to deliver financial aid information via email or SMS, and ensure the information arrives before term starts to help students persist. Also schools can help students anticipate their financial aid award and tuition costs for the upcoming year so students can plan.

Career Center

Many students drop out of school, because they don’t understand how a degree will help them in the “real” world. Unfortunately, failing to earn a degree can obviously result in unrealized career goals. It’s crucial your career center offers real advice and useful networking opportunities so students can work toward a future they care about.

Student Accounts

No matter how good their financial aid package, if students have trouble accessing or using their award money, they may not persist. A student account center with long hours, friendly staff and clear explanations can considerably impact the number of kids who return after their first year.


Studies show that students who fear communication are less likely to stay in school, and will likely earn lower GPAs if they do. Students who are shy or who weren’t taught how to communicate may have trouble interacting with professors, speaking to counselors and school officials, advocating for themselves and actively pursuing their careers toward the end of school. Orientation is the perfect time to give kids a crash course in the most effective communication strategies, when to use them and what they can achieve.

Counseling Services

The quality of the relationships students have with peers, professors and school officials measurably impacts their willingness to stay in school. If students are struggling with relationships or interaction, therefore, it’s critical they have somewhere to turn. Cultivating an open-minded and available counseling presence on campus will help.

Health Center

Similarly, students must feel as though they’re being taken care of. An active and professional health center that anticipates student needs and offers advice in a caring environment will accomplish that.

Increasing the number of students that stay in school won’t happen overnight. However, with careful attention to each of these services, your college or university can slowly but measurably increase persistence and make a difference in the futures of thousands of students.


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