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How Can We Improve First Semester Retention Rates and Reduce Student Drop Outs?

The first semester can be overwhelming for students; managing workload, making new friends, homesickness, social anxiety, academic stress, financial pressures, meeting deadlines. While graduates look back at the challenges of the first semester with a great sense of pride and achievement, it is difficult to appreciate the lessons at the time. Many students struggle with the transition to higher education, in fact research shows that often up to 30% of students will drop out in their first year. So it is vital that institutions provide services that help students along the way.

Perhaps the greatest lesson of all in life is knowing when to ask for help.  No one achieves success alone.  The challenge for institutions is seeking out those who need help the most. The warning signs for many first semester student drop outs are often spotted too late.

Full class student attendance and boosted retention rates.

Improving First Semester Retention Rates

So how do you help students if you do not know they need help and who are too afraid to ask?

Midterm results are a good measure but by then the student may have dealt with such enormous stress that they may feel that the course is not for them. Institutions need to be tracking the earliest signs of student drop outs to improve retention rates.

Attendance is the first step in measuring student success. Turning up for class shows that a student is motivated, able to manage their time, and consistent. These attributes lead to healthy student outcomes. Poor attendance is a sign that a student isn’t fully engaged and might need help.

While poor attendance is the first sign of a student who is in need, it is not the only sign. Test results, library attendance, time spent on the online learning system and attending college events collectively build a picture of student engagement and provide a more rounded view of student progress. This can help institutions implement more proactive interventions and strategies to improve retention rates.

Workflows - student attendance

We are talking about helping students as soon as possible. We are talking about sitting down with a student, understanding their concerns and letting them know that help is at hand. We are talking about empathy, connection, and relationship building.

Software facilitates relationship building between at-risk students and advisors using digital signals to alert staff of problems. Students who do not seek help are merely young adults who have not yet learned how to ask for help. At SEAtS Software, we pull together a wealth of student data, monitor progress, seek out those most in need and deliver actionable insights for student success.

By leveraging the power of student engagement analytics and early alerts, institutions can identify the students who haven’t been able to ask for help yet, and give them the support they need to get back on track. As a result, student drop outs will decrease and retention rates will go up! A simple solution for student and institutional success in one.


If you would like to boost first semester student retention rates and reduce student drop outs, contact us at for a free discovery call.