By Dalton Carver
Change and adaptation is something that human beings must deal with every day. It may be something small, like getting a haircut or having a class cancelled. You may have to adjust your daily schedule around some rainy weather or heavy traffic. However, some changes are much larger than these simple examples, like finding the right place to attend college. Sometimes, we don’t find that perfect place on the first try and transfers or drop outs are inevitable.
“Mostly what we hear are financial reasons,” said Tami Pullins, in charge of retention at Southwestern College. “Mom or dad loses a job or something different just happens.” However, just because it’s the most common response and reason, doesn’t mean it’s the most accurate. “Sometimes a student says it’s financial because they don’t want to say that they’re flunking out, they don’t fit here or it’s not what I thought it would be,” said Pullins.
The next most common reason is that the student has decided to change to a major that Southwestern College does not carry. “They came here thinking they were going to be in biology, but they decided they wanted to be a fireman instead, for example,” said Pullins. The third reason includes students’ personal concerns, such as being homesick or having girlfriend/boyfriend issues that cause them to want to leave the college.
However, before these students consider the things wrong with Southwestern, different things attract them in the first place. The closeness with professors and the academic atmosphere is very important to many new students. “I think the size attracts students because, for many, if they went to a bigger school, they wouldn’t get to do the activities they would do here,” said Pullins. “We know that students that are socially and academically connected are students that will stick.”
On the other hand, the school may not be big enough for some. “Certain students are worried about everyone knowing their business,” said Pullins. “I think that for some students, the ability to build relationships with folks is better here because we are small and caring and focus on the individual students.”
Despite the several issues that are brought up, Southwestern is doing quite a bit to retain its students. An early alert system is in use around campus, and will notify professors and administrators when a student may be considering the option of transferring. For example, faculty can use this feature if a student hasn’t appeared in class for a significant amount of time. “Anybody on campus can notify me that they’re concerned about a student,” said Pullins. “I can also be notified when someone’s mother passes away, or things like that.”
In addition to this system, anything that goes with the campus climate is geared toward retention and helping students want to be here. “We changed the advising system recently, and that was a retention effort,” said Pullins. “We switched to in-department advisors from the very beginning of the semester.” Groups like SAAB and other organizations around campus also help with retention, because they can help students succeed and graduate from Southwestern.
Occasionally, college is surrounded by chaos. Students get sick of the cafeteria, sick of their roommate or they just broke up with their significant other. With all the consideration between going and staying, some students may fear that they’ll lose their friends or teammates in the shuffle. However, the college urges students to take a look at the big picture. “It has never occurred that a whole team, organization or group have left all at the same time,” said Pullins. “We just encourage students that get nervous that all their friends are leaving to step back and look at the situation.”
Dalton Carver is a freshman majoring in communication. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.