The Importance of Non-Academic Factors and College Readiness

Most parents, dream of their children’s graduation from college and successful careers, this is especially true for parents who have not attended any higher education institutions (Conley, 2010). Parents rely on high schools to provide the academic preparation necessary for college success. However, high school graduation does not necessarily equate with college readiness. Many students are not prepared for success in college (ACT, 2012).

It’s well established that GPA, completing rigorous coursework , and high American College Testing (ACT) scores greatly impact students’ college preparedness and students’ ability to meet first year of college demands.  These are known as academic factors. Though academic factors are extremely important, this article is for the purpose of providing insight into Non-Academic Factors that improve college preparedness as well as retention beyond the first year of college.

High School to Post-Secondary

The transition to post-secondary institutions is a huge life change for all students. (Tinto, 1993). In his theoretical model, Tinto (1993) focuses on several predictors of retention and success in college.  Academic and nonacademic preparation during K-12 and adjusting to college life are more likely to predict students who drop out of college during their freshman year. Students drop out for many reasons such as a lack of financial aid, being unprepared for college therefore students cannot meet academic rigor, personal reasons, and inability to adapt to their chosen institution.

Tinto (1993) suggests that “college ready” transition to college is categorized under Academic and Non-Academic adjustments. Academic adjustment enables students to grasp at least minimum standards regarding academic performance. Non-academic indicators include, social integration, becoming actively involved, and building relationships with faculty, psychological and physical stability and individual’s ability to fit with the institution, and a sense of belonging. College can be the best four years of one’s life, however, it is a time when students must adapt to obscure situations filled with new challenges and barriers. This transition separates students from their childhood friends. Students are forced into challenging new task, roles, routines, and relationships. It is time for students to put into practice all of the social skills, norms, and expectations taught by their immediate family, because college life allows for more freedom, independence, and responsibility. As a result of this transition, identity transformation also takes place, which forces students to choose their own actions. Therefore, it is imperative for the universities to implement interventions that are designed to serve the well-being of students, which enhance retention. Non-academic factors are just as important as academic factors. Social integration and college support are imperative components for student’s endurance (Tinto, 1975, 1993). Tinto disclosed that less than 25% of students who dropout from postsecondary schools, are related to academic problems. Majority of students cut ties due to failure with integration. Students become unhappy with college life expectancies and develop feelings of isolation. Tinto’s Longitudinal model of Departure describes an “interactive model of student departure” (p. 112) and as “primarily sociological in character” (p. 113). Tinto (1987) put forward as a basis of argument that students prior to college experiences such as psychological skills, family background, secondary schooling, impact students’ goals and resilience. As a result, students’ goals influence university experiences.

Non-Academic Factors                                                                                              

The author’s areas of focus for this article are Non-Academic factors.  Non-Academic factors are seldom acknowledged when considering whether or not a student is college ready.  Consequently, non-academic factors can be strong predictors as it relates to preparing students to persevere through rigorous coursework and calculated expectations of postsecondary institutions. School districts more than not, solely focus on Academic factors such as rigorous coursework completion, high school grade point average (HSGPA), and ACT scores and never consider other factors associated with students’ college preparedness. Non-academic factors such as students’ confidence, self-motivation, finances, social support, family support, and some researchers would say the most important non-academic factor is social integration. Social Integration is considered a postsecondary student’s ability to connect with others through joining organizations, meeting and building relationships with new positive friends, and developing friendships with college employees (Tinto, 1975). These practices reduce the chances of students feeling home sick or a sense of loneliness.  Both contribute to students dropping out of college.

All students who enter college have gone through K-12 exposed to contrasting experiences. Research findings by Stupinsky, Renaud, Perry, Ruthig, Haynes, and Clifton (2007) suggest individual differences have a major impact on students’ post-secondary achievement. Adaptability, endurance, motivation, self-efficacy, self-control, mindset and self-regulation leverage how students react to academic expectations of college, college life expectations, and transitioning.  Mind-sets are the attitudes, beliefs, and emotions students have about themselves and schooling (Dweck, 2006; Walton, & Cohen, 2011). Examples include engagement, motivation, self-efficacy, and persistence (Robbins et al., 2004).

Academic preparedness cannot live in isolation. Students who complete AP courses, score high on ACT/SAT, and earn high grade point averages are less likely to drop-out of college due to poor academic performance. Instead, dropping out is possibly due to their inability to integrate socially as well as not being motivated by their college selection.  First year students who join orientation programs have a higher success rate in college opposed to students who do not participate in such social clubs. Research findings also suggest students who were admitted to colleges with a low ACT score and grade point average but yet had strong social connections and supports, had much better graduation success (Schnell, 2003). These findings also “suggest students’ entering characteristics play an important role in persistence to graduation, but potential for success can be increased with the addition of first-year programs” (Lotkowski, Robbins, & Noeth, 2004, p. 14).  Furthermore, research results support the notion that when schools consider pre-college academic strength such as GPA, ACT scores, and non-academic predictors students’ performance increases and the same can be said for their sustainability through rigorous post-secondary years.  ACT (2010; 2012) research shows that differences in college success across racial/ethnic and income groups narrow when students have the requisite academic achievement and relevant nonacademic skills (Robbins, 2004; 2006).

Alliance of Academic and Non-Academic Factors

College retention programs can do a better job of retaining students by combining both academic and non-academic factors. The most compelling alliance to retention happens when academic and the most important non-academic factors are parallel to each other (Asera, 1998; O’Brien & Shed, 2001; Tucker, 1999). Many students with poor academic performance still endure the rigor of college due to their social integration and feelings of belonging with their chosen college. Universities that implement programs that embrace mentoring and support groups into their school’s mission, enhances levels of student involvement, motivation, and academic self-confidence. Consequently, students ultimately remain committed to the institution (Padgett & Reid, 2003). Interventions will help keep students actively engaged as well as help students meet the expectations of academia and college life transitions.

References

ACT, Inc. (2010). The condition of college and career readiness. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.www.libproxy.wvu.edu/ehost/

ACT, Inc. (2012). Creating your explore and plan: Road map to student success. Retrieved from http://www.act.org/education/benchmarks.html

Asera, R. (1998). Supporting student persistence. Black Issues in Higher Education, 15(10), 104.

Conley, D. T. (2010). College and career ready: Helping all students succeed beyond high school. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

DeBerard, M. S., Speilmans, G. I., & Julka, D. (2004). Predictors of academic achievement and retention among college freshmen: A longitudinal study. College Student Journal, 38(1), 66-80.

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine.

Lotkowski, V., Robbins, S., & Noeth, R. (2004). The role of academic and non-academic factors in improving college retention. ACT, Inc.

Padgett, V. R., & Reid, J. F., Jr. (2003). Five-year evaluation of the student diversity program: A Retrospective quasi-experiment. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 4(2), 135-145.

Stupinsky, R. H., Renaud, R. D., Perry, R. P., Ruthig, J. C., Haynes, T. L. & Clifton, R. A., (2007). Comparing self-esteem and perceived control as predictors of first-year college students’ academic achievement. Social Psychology of Education, 10, 303-330. doi: 10.1007/s11218-007-9020-4

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125.

Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (1988). Stages of student departure: Reflections on the longitudinal characteristics of students leaving. Journal of Higher Education, 59, 438-455.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (2012). Moving from theory to action: A model of institutional action for student success. In A. Seidman (Ed.), College student retention: Formula for student success (pp. 255-256). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and motivation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2011). A brief social-belonging intervention improves academic and health outcomes of minority students. Science Magazine, 331, 1447-1451

Wimberly, G. L., & Noeth, R. J. (2005). College readiness begins in middle school. ACT policy report. Ames, IA: ACT, Inc.

National Trends vs our Middle School Data

The chart reflects the nation’s growth, or the lack thereof. I am simply stating the facts. These challenges we face as a district require all of us working collaboratively and
cooperatively. The only things that have risen is cost of employees and the cost to educate students. Academic scores have remained flat since 1970 when considering the entire USA.

The trends I mentioned above don’t tell the full picture. Nationally and locally, there are achievement gaps. He is how gaps were narrowed at Columbia Public Schools over the past year, particularly for African-American students.

I am very excited about the growth. This is awesome and an indication of the hard work and dedication of secondary administrators. We have tremendous momentum and we will keep up the great work in order to do even better for all students.

Teaching history through Music

Dr. Kevin Brown teaching young students about different kinds of saxophones and the history of America’s Classical Music known as Jazz.
The students were not aware of the the contributions made by African American musicians. The students were attentive and had very good questions about the saxophones and Jazz Music. They also had lots of questions about sheet music and how were people able to read black dots to make music.
I was so very proud of the students. They even shared some of the things they are doing around the arts.