THE RETENTION CALENDAR
The Counseling Services’ professional counselors have become increasingly aware that there are specific times during the academic year when students seem most apt to face particular challenges and difficulties.
The Retention Calendar can act as a framework for faculty and staff about these cycles of need. Our counseling student intakes and assessments showed that several areas had continual recurrence for our students such as career exploration and planning; self-esteem problems; issues related to the expectations (real or perceived) by self and by others; and social and familial adjustments. The calendar serves as a guideline for workshop topics (e.g., midterm burnout) and can be widely used throughout the college, with emphasis on the academic terms and their particular stressors.
Of course, a calendar alone isn’t going to bring about higher retention and graduation rates. The Retention Services Team can affirm that the increase in retention since Fall 2000 has come from a cooperative campus climate that encourages innovative programming and recognizes team work as well as achievement
We believe if success obstacles happened predictably during any given academic year, why not develop a retention and development calendar to alert faculty and staff of these specific times and their challenges? This calendar isolated the specific stress periods of our students as follows:
Feelings of isolation, especially for the returning student. Fears begin to surface concerning acceptance as a peer on a campus with many students under 21. A sense of inadequacy and inferiority develops for students who must cope with job and home pressures while also trying to meet academic standards.
First-year students begin to realize that college is not as perfect as they had initially dreamed; old problems often continue; new ones arise. Midterm workload increases pressures, leading to a loss of self-esteem. Married/employed students feel torn between two (or more) worlds, as responsibilities become more demanding. Job panic for mid-year graduates may surface; students may have to make a choice between staying at a current job rather than continue the academic venture, with its tenuous promise for future benefits.
Academic pressures mount and some have to come to terms with the limits of their academic abilities. Depression, anxiety, and financial worries can set in as the holidays approach.
Many students will experience what has been called “Second Quarter Optimism,” the notion that things will be different this time around. Vocational choices can begin to cause anxiety. Dating couples, either begins to establish stronger ties or experience a weakened relationship; marital problems surface. Adjustments aren’t getting easier. Others feel left out if they have failed to establish social relationships on campus.
Midterm pressures roll around again. Papers and exams pile up. Students face an existential crisis – Must I leave school? Did I pick the right program? Why aren’t things going right? What will help me stay in school? What made me come back to school?
Confusion about registration for summer and fall quarters starts; summer job worries set in and for parents contemplating summer school, the problem arises of how to keep their children occupied. Spring fever becomes evident, leading to frequent absences.
Papers and exams pile up; increased confusion about registration for summer and fall quarter continues; summer job worries set in and for parents contemplating summer school, the problem arises of how to keep their children occupied. Spring fever becomes epidemic, leading to loss of concentration, excessive absences and a rash of incomplete grades.
During the summer quarter, tough decisions about attending summer school during a five, seven or ten week term are made. Decisions are centered around: 1) how to pay for classes and buy books (for those students receiving financial aid can only use the financial aid for three quarters in an academic year); 2) make up classes; 3) re-register for withdrawn classes; and 4) complete pre-requisites.