The vast majority of campuses have spent a considerable amount of time and resources helping to shape the first-year student experience in order to improve student retention and college completion. But with the increased focus on improving college completion rates, we need to “broaden the lens” and look beyond the first-year into the second as well.
It’s harder to focus on second-year college students, as they don’t have the same starting point as first-year college students. They don’t come through common orientation programs, move-in days, first-year seminars, residence halls, or advising programs. Second-year college students are disbursed across their institutions, and campuses tend to operate on the assumption that since they have come back for a second year, they are there to stay—all committed to majors, connected with their faculty and peers, with plans for graduation firmly in place. But are these assumptions valid? Are second-year college students still at risk for leaving before they graduate? What do these students themselves have to tell us about what they need and want now, in their second year of college?
Noel-Levitz data for students at four-year institutions indicate that 16-19 percent of second-year college students leave their first institution at the end of the second year. That can have a significant impact on college completion rates and is especially troubling considering so many second-year college students are eager for assistance.