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Encouraging College Retention and Persistence

A recent report (PDF) on college persistence among Chicago students — who are similar in many ways to students in DC — identified some key factors that contribute to college retention and persistence. Students who persist through a four-year college:

1. Participate in a college planning process that is tailored to each student’s needs and strengths. Students who persist through college understand the realities of college — the differences between high school and college and the expectations of college life. When encouraging first-generation or low-income students whose parents do not have a college degree to enroll in college, it is critical to give the students very specific information about the college experience. Resources you can use to support students in this area:

  • The differences between high school and college. (PDF)
  • Myths about college. (PDF)
  • College word game. (PDF)
  • How to choose a college that’s the best fit. (This resource focuses on helping students understand the importance of persistence and retention rates of colleges they wish to attend and the importance of completing the DC OneApp to access financial aid for college.) (PDF)
  • A college fair worksheet. (PDF)

2. Have compelling and motivating personal goals. Students who persist through college generally have a very clear, driving reason why they want to obtain a degree. It’s not just about going to college but about a career, self-vindication, a sense of possibilities, or altruistic ambitions to help others. The reason to persist is so strong students will change habits, learn new skills, and embrace new ways of thinking to achieve this degree.

The better students know themselves — their strengths, interests, preferences, and weaknesses — the clearer they can become about their goals and the help they will need to realize their desired future. Resources you can use to support students in this area:

  • Knowing yourself — a series of activities and self-discovery quizzes that culminates in linking personal preferences to related careers. (PDF)
  • Opportunities for juniors. (PDF)
  • Individual Graduation Portfolio (for DCPS students only)

3. Are able to use the resources available to them and ask for help. Students who persist through college understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, an imposition, a personal failure, or a cause for shame. To persist in college they must see asking for and using help as a skill that is necessary to succeed. And it is a skill that we have to teach and reinforce. As we help them explore potential colleges, we must encourage them to check out the resources and supports the colleges provide to help students succeed. It is also helpful for us to creatively use the experiences of other students as teachable lessons from which our students can learn how to ask for and use help. We recommend you integrate teamwork and interdependence in the activities you provide to students. Resources you can use to support students in this area:

  • How to choose a college that’s the best fit. (This resource focuses on the various supports the college provides for students.) (PDF)
  • Online SAT/ACT prep programs. (PDF)

4. Develop special, supportive networks with individuals who are knowledgeable about the college experience. Students who persist through college develop strong relationships with counselors, teachers, advisers, and others who offer support and guidance and point students to resources to help them. This support allows students to negotiate the challenges of college with people who believe in them, are able to provide specific guidance on the challenges they face, and are able to help them recover from a failure or disappointment. Resources you can use to support students in this area:

  • Consortium Ambassadors program (PDF)


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Nicollete

Nicollete, an Anacostia junior, wants to be a marine biologist ... view video (1:01)


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In college, results count more than good-faith efforts.

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