College search: finding your best school
Before you choose: Research transition programsAccording to an ACT academic retention report, successful first-year transition programs include orientation; first-year seminars; academic support systems, such as tutoring, skills development and learning assistance programs; faculty and peer mentoring; and placement testing. Many institutions even have programs for accepted students who've not yet enrolled to help them make that final college choice.
For admitted students, all colleges offer some sort of orientation program. "Opt for a campus that has a more extensive orientation program, not just one or two days in the summer or even just a freshman week," says Wes Habley, ACT's principal associate who has been conducting the survey since 1983. Some colleges offer special transition programs for students at higher risk of dropping out.
To help students throughout their college years, Rosa Pimentel, associated director of undergraduate admissions at UCLA, suggests looking for strong personal counseling services. "Personal issues can blow up and not make the student successful," she says. Students who develop a strong connection with their university tend to persist even despite other potential difficulties, such as poor academic performance, according to the ACT retention report.
Recap: The problems
School selectivity issues
-- An ACT survey shows 72 percent of students in "highly selective" schools -- those with the majority of freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school class -- graduated within four years, as compared with 49 percent at "selective" schools; 31 percent at "traditional" schools and only 30 percent at "open enrollment" schools.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »