A Student-Centered Plan for First-Year Success
Implementing a data-driven, technology-enabled approach to student success on a traditional liberal arts campus can be challenging—but it can also pay dividends. Presenters from Virginia’s Longwood University, a small regional public with a liberal arts focus, describe just this process. As part of implementing a first-year coaching initiative, Longwood gathered and presented a dossier about each first-year student to a faculty or staff member who served as that student's coach. Included in this was a “flag” system, which identified potential areas of risk for each student, including factors such as an atypically difficult first-year schedule, a high school GPA more than one standard deviation below the norm, or a low SAT math score combined with enrollment in multiple STEM courses. After the first year of implementation, Longwood saw its proportion of freshmen in academic difficulty decrease by 6%. By the second year, freshman-to-sophomore retention had increased 3%—and all this despite COVID-19. In addition, outreaches continued into the second year, with overall success rates holding steady even with record numbers of students disclosing mental health issues and academic struggles. Presenters will share a “how to” approach from soup to nuts, including how to find and organize data and how to present data to coaches and develop their skills for success.