Fall 2016 is drawing near, and many colleges and universities are now preparing to meet their newest students and planning summer orientation programs, but my question is: how well do you really know the incoming class? Often, the programming at orientation is a reflection of what the institution has learned about its incoming class through the admissions process—high school academic profiles, SAT/ACT scores, intended majors, instate/out-of-state status, athletic intentions, etc. But these data only give institutions a limited perspective on what their entering students will need in order to be successful—and graduate—from their first college or university.
What’s missing? What’s missing is what I like to call “the rest of the story”: the easy-to-gather data and information on noncognitive, motivational variables that each individual student brings to college that directly influence the student’s likelihood of persisting—and graduating (or not)—from the institution. Think of it as the currents that operate below the surface of the ocean—pulling students toward staying or leaving.
Example: here’s a typical incoming student that everyone thinks they already know
To illustrate the missing information, I’d like you to consider the example of “Sarah” (her name has been changed, but she’s a student we will all recognize). Sarah is enrolling as a first-year student at an institution close to her home. She has a 3.4 high school GPA—which wouldn’t put her on anybody’s radar as “at risk” of finishing college. However, Sarah just completed the early-alert College Student Inventory (CSI) which measures her motivation and receptivity to assistance. What we learn from Sarah’s CSI results is quite revealing—in key areas, her academic motivation is quite low: