Why students drop out of university, Factors that influence student retention. By Sharilynn Hanslo

Various factors may contribute to student retention, academic expectations, personal responsibilities, finances, mental health issues, etc. However, there are strategies, methods, and support systems that can increase the likelihood of academic success. 


Many contributing factors may influence the longevity of a student’s ability to adhere to their tertiary commitments. Additionally, many will start school with limited life experience and may not be sure if they are choosing the correct major. Studying is a long-term commitment. Many students have mistakenly chosen academic paths that were not suited for them. Many factors pertain to this, in some cases lack of life experience may result in a student’s inability to make mature long-term decisions, which is primarily required when committing to obtaining a higher education. 

Students can benefit from Shadowing other students before choosing to major in a specific field. Many programs allow High School students to shadow existing college students; This provides an opportunity to experience and gain a basic level of understanding as to what to expect. 

No specific formula or amount of quantitative research can provide empirical evidence as to which methods result in 100% student academic success. If there were evidence to suggest this, then we would not have an ongoing global problem regarding student retention. However, there are methods to increase the likely hood of achieving academic success and longevity. Based on quantitative research, Effects of approach to learning and self-perceived overall competence on the academic performance of university student.

The article provides an overview of the reoccurring problems students face, as well as offer possible solutions to issues. Such as correct academic preparation, time management and learning various study methods to help better prepare them for the demands and workload they will encounter. However, strategies and study methods are subjective to the individual; hence the continuous change in the paradigm for what the conceptual factors are that contribute to academic success.

The approach to learning has changed significantly with more modern methods such as the use of technology and social media being implemented, which is used for social engagement and international interactive learning. 

While some institutions might still make use of older traditional methods, many other educations facilities are opting for more modern approaches as they understand the power and importance of social media and the internet in a technological evolving and developing world.

“social media has gained credibility over the years and seen as a trusted source of information” (LCBS)

This is true as many credited sites allow discussions between experts as well as none experts to discuss various topics and share ideas. Online sites such as Quora have become a professional hub where people post questions and receive answers from professionals.   

“Learning colleges have the ability to connect with students through social media networks such as Facebook, Google Plus groups, and YouTube. These channels can be used to communicate campus news, make announcements and provide students with useful information” (LCBS)

Online studies also serve as a reference as to how far the education systems have advanced and evolved due to the influence of technology. The is no more extended stigma associated with obtaining a degree online, further providing evidence that the internet and technology have served as one of the main contributing factors in the advancement of modern society.  


Technology has grown exponentially which has increased the popularity of social media and online engagements. Some Studies have shown that although the long-term effects of social media are relatively unknown, there are benefits to using it. 

By incorporating social media and the internet into learning students have access to an encyclopedia of information instantly.  Sites such as Google, Quora, Skype etc. provide instant online interaction and provide access to various sources of credited information, such as academic journals, professional speakers, online lectures etc. Students no longer need to study or feel isolated; Using some of these methods allows a student to interact with teachers and students online which is not only faster but also convenient. The Good, the Bad and the In-between of Social Media.

When used in moderation, social media and modern technology not only allows a student to explore and learn from others on an international scale, it may also provide online support for issues for a student who wishes to stay anonymous. — Matters relating to mental health, relationships, financial difficulties, or researching solutions to improve academically which may include various study methods. Some schools may encourage a student to work harder but not provide answers as to how.  In this instance, social media, and online engagements with others may serve as a valuable learning tool. 


Studies have shown that multiple factors influence student retention which is not only limited to our cognitive ability to retain information but how we retain it. Universities and educational institutions would benefit significantly by implementing and teaching various study methods.  Academic competence may be achieved through various study tactics, repetition, think aloud methods etc. Moreover, academic success is not just obtained by studying longer but studying smarter. Learning different methods can significantly improve a student’s ability to understand and retain information for more extended periods — contributions of Study Skills to Academic Competence. 


While students need to possess the necessary skills to succeed, many universities should offer adequate support. A school that is not able to advise may share some of the responsibility for low attendance rates.  “A college which cannot help students succeed may indicate serious problems at the college – whether it is low-quality instructors or a lack of motivated students.” (NSCRC) 

Although the paradigm, within the education system, continues to change, with more schools understanding the adverse effects of how psychological distress affects performance and student retention it still enforces and even celebrates competition amongst students. This can create an unhealthy environment for learning for some who may struggle academically. Many may develop a sense of inadequacy and lose motivation which subsequently begins to impact their academic competency negatively. Low retention and high dropout rates are a testimony to this.  

While the world is competitive, schools should also be working towards teaching students to engage and learn from one another.  The constant emphases on competition create a divide between students, mainly that of the underachievers and those who are flourishing.  Students who feel psychologically inadequate up against their peers may increase their psychological distress resulting in loss of motivation. 

Thus, a demotivated student may further contribute to low academic results and affect student retention. Although It is essential that students be self-motivated, it is vital that they seek out professional advice or assistance from their guidance counsellors. Moreover, it is imperative that a school offer a facility that provides these services. The Benefits of Engagement in a Psychosocial Wellness


Psychosocial and psychological challenges are common among students. Early intervention approaches that involve stress management, cognitive restructuring provide essential skills that assist with the transition process. It can help students developed better stress management mechanisms which may prove beneficial not only in school but as a skill to be applied later in life. It may also increase their overall emotional wellbeing. Research has shown that a student who can manage time and stress increase their chances of academic success. Promoting Psychosocial Adjustment and Stress Management in First-Year College Students

While many students will occupy the same space, many will need to be self-driven, focused and work independently. However, working independently for long periods can force a student into solicitude. The pressure to succeed academically may force many students into isolation which could progress to depression. 8. The Benefits of Engagement in a Psychosocial Wellness Seminar. Journal of American College Health

Resilience and hard work may produce better grades, but the longevity and a student’s ability to maintain this remains uncertain as student retention remains an ongoing problem. When there is an emotional disturbance in a student’s wellbeing, it may begin to affect their academic performance. Some may even drop out entirely due to psychological factors.  “College students frequently report loneliness, homesickness, conflict and distress in interpersonal relationships” The benefits of engagement in a psychosocial wellness seminar. 

Research has indicated that psychological factors are essential determinants in a student’s success.  Educational institutions are one of the best places to educate and assist students with emotional and psychological related issues since it is structured around the conceptual building blocks of learning and developing. However, the resources to provide such an essential service is underused. Students link emotional wellbeing to learning. 

Each student is an individual, however many programs aimed at developing and assisting students are generic with a one size fits all program. Considering the exuberant expense higher education imposes, it should offer better counselling support services for students struggling with various issues. Whether or not this should be a shared cost between government health services and education facilities is certainly something that should be further discussed and possibly implemented. Mental health issues remain an ongoing issue that affects many. The importance of this should not be overlooked. 

Psychological approaches can be detrimental to how successful a program is. For example, a severely depressed or suicidal student might require different counselling methods as opposed to one struggling academically, which is why students should have access to more qualified health professional. 

Moreover, many students are not encouraged enough to seek out help or develop new study methods when they are struggling as the focus of most colleges are primarily focused on student academic results and not their psychological wellbeing. Students are conscious of the fact that getting good grades are essential, but it is not enough to succeed. Thus, it is necessary to educate and equip students with skills that transcend not just their educational experience but also after. The Benefits of Engagement in a Psychosocial Wellness Seminar. Journal of American College Health


Student retention is a global issue, that impacts the social and economic development of society. The responsibility to obtain academic competence to succeed does not fall on the student or the education system solely. It is the shared responsibility of the student to ensure that they are competent enough to handle the pressure, as well as seek assistance when needed. Government and the education system should provide learning conditions that offer adequate support.  The reality is that irrespective of hard work, there will always be students who will not succeed academically. However, there are strategies and skills which may increase the likelihood of them completing the educational journey with success

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