college

College search: finding your best school

Before you choose: Review retention and graduation rates

If you were not accepted to a highly selective school, you may find a diamond among the less selective or non-selective schools by examining the institution's retention and graduation rates. In general, the higher these numbers are the better. They're often an indication the institution has programs in place to keep students in college and on the path to graduation. The numbers don't guarantee you'll stay at that schools, but, Tom Weede, vice president of enrollment management at Butler University in Indianapolis, says, "If the school has really low retention and graduation rates, a reasonable question to ask is, 'What's going on there?'"

If the school meets all your other criteria but falls short on one or both of these numbers, ask the admissions office to explain why, advises Carol DelPropost, assistant vice president of admission and financial aid at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio.

Recap: The problems

Campus culture shock -- If the campus and its student body don't match the student's personality, the student will ultimately feel out of place.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Lifestyle transitions -- Students often underestimate the difficulty and challenges of collegiate life and have trouble handling transition issues, such as developing time management and study habits, forming new relationships and choosing a major.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Financial stress -- Students who must work to pay for college are at greater risk of dropping out than those who are more financially secure, according to an ACT college retention report.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Unprepared for college -- Most students are not prepared academically for college, according to an ACT report.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Academic mismatch -- Colleges that are either too easy or too difficult, often cause students to transfer or drop out altogether.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Lack of academic guidance -- One of the primary factors affecting college retention is the quality of interaction a student has with a concerned person on campus, often in the form of an academic adviser, says an ACT report on improving retention.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
Students outgrow the school -- "Many students are thinking ahead in terms of going to medical school or law school or getting graduate degrees," says Rosa Pimentel, associate director of undergraduate admissions at UCLA. They may find, though, that the school doesn't have the resources it needs to move them ahead.
Solution: What to consider before you choose »
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 »

 

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