Getting into college is easy; the hard part is getting out! The research has identified several factors that contribute significantly to student success in higher education:

• High expectations – Students who believe they will succeed in college are more likely to do well than those who don’t. Parents, teachers and peers can encourage that belief.

• Academically prepared; algebra and calculus – The probabilities of earning a college degree go up by 40% if students take Algebra II and Trigonometry in high school—and do well. This increases to 93% with pre-calculus and calculus.

• Go directly to college—fulltime – The research is unequivocal; students enrolling in college immediately after high school are more likely to finish than those who “take a break,” planning to attend later. The probabilities that students will earn a degree also go up 200% when they stay enrolled fulltime.

• Preregister and participate in orientation – Students who preregister for classes, meet their academic advisors before school starts and set up course plans are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Participation in the full orientation program also improves the success rate even when students already “know” the school and campus where they will attend.

• Enroll in “summer bridge programs” – Most colleges offer skills-oriented, summer programs that teach incoming freshmen how to study, take notes, prepare for exams and write more effectively. Time management, however, is probably the most important thing they will learn. These skills are particularly important for those who struggled in high school.

• Seek advising and monitor progress – Students who establish a four-year academic plan by the end of their first semester and then meet with their advisors at least once each semester to assess progress are far more likely to graduate (and do so in four years) than those who don’t.

• Attend class and keep up with assignments – Though it seems obvious that attending class and keeping up with course readings and other work, too many students fail because they skip class and fall behind on their assignments. Attending college is like holding a job; you have to show up every day to be successful!

• Take advantage of tutoring – Virtually every university provides tutors and supplemental instruction. Those who seek extra help will find it—and are more likely to succeed in school than those who struggle on their own.

• Engagement – The research shows that students who get involved in service learning, internships and co-curricular activities (clubs, intramurals, intercollegiate athletics, music, etc.) are more likely to stay in school and succeed academically than those who don’t. The same is true for students who get involved in research with their professors.

Several factors limit student success such as delaying the start of college, “stopping-out” (dropping out with the intention of re-enrolling) and working more than 20 hours per week. Research shows that the probabilities of earning a degree go down significantly if students start college at a for-profit institution. Although many students attend two-year colleges as a matter of convenience and cost, the data show they are likely to graduate at a lower rate (and take longer) than those who enroll in four-year institutions after high school. As virtually every faculty member can attest, however, the lack of time management skills is the most significant barrier to student success in college.

The research is clear; there are specific things that students can do if they want to succeed in college—and we know what they are.

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